Modality-specific training adaptations – do they lead to a dampened acute inflammatory response to exercise?

While adaptations to a short-term training program can dampen the acute inflammatory response to exercise, less is known about the influence of chronic modality-specific adaptations to training. This study compares the acute inflammatory response to upper- and lower-body interval exercise in individuals chronically trained in these respective modalities. Ninety minutes of interval exercise matched for relative power output on an arm-crank (ARM) and cycle ergometer (LEG) was performed by 8 trained paddlers and 8 trained cyclists. Blood samples were taken pre- and post-exercise. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentrations were analysed in plasma, while the expression of intracellular Hsp72 was assessed in monocytes (iHsp72). Interleukin-6 was increased following both modalities (fold change ARM: 7.23±3.56, p<0.001; LEG: 9.03±4.82 p<0.001), in both groups (cyclists p<0.001; paddlers p<0.001), but the increase was smaller in ARM compared with LEG (Time x Modality p<0.001). ARM induced a smaller iHsp72 response compared with LEG (fold change ARM: 1.07±0.14, p=0.102; LEG: 1.18±0.14, p<0.001, Time x Modality p = 0.039). Following ARM, iHsp72 expression was increased in the cyclists only (fold change cyclists: 1.12±0.11, p=0.018; paddlers: 1.03±0.17, p=0.647), while iHsp72 expression following LEG was increased in both groups (fold change cyclists: 1.14±0.15, p=0.027; paddlers: 1.22±0.13, p< 0.001). Taken together, the acute inflammatory response to lower-body interval exercise was larger compared with work-matched upper-body interval exercise. Moreover, adaptations to upper-body exercise training dampened the iHsp72 response to this modality. Therefore, exercise may be less effective in reducing chronic low-grade inflammation in individuals relying on their upper body, such as wheelchair users.