Publication Date

Spring 2018

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Lee Winchester (Director), Cody Morris, Scott Arnett, and Mark Schafer

Degree Program

School of Kinesiology, Recreation & Sport

Degree Type

Master of Science


Many college students exercise individually or participate in collegiate and intramural sports in addition to fulfilling their stressful academic requirements. The combination of accumulated stress and vigorous exercise could result in an impaired immune system, prompting the onset of disease and absences in class and sports practice.

Twenty-six male and female participants aged 18 to 23 were recruited for this study. Over the course of an academic semester, participants completed weekly electronic surveys documenting stress levels, aerobic exercise, and symptoms related to upper respiratory tract infections. Participants were evaluated at four different time points (Baseline, Post-Midterm Exam, Baseline Reassessment, and Post-Final Exam) for body fat percentage, cardiovascular fitness, heart rate, blood pressure, and a 10mL blood draw. Blood samples were used to measure blood glucose, cortisol, IL-6, and CD11b levels. Analysis of cortisol and IL-6 concentrations required ELISA kits for protein quantification in plasma samples. CD11b levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples were measured by Western Blot analysis.

There was a significant increase in blood pressure during the final exam compared to rest for systolic (p=0.005) and diastolic (p=0.004) blood pressures. There was a significant decrease in anxiety during the final exam compared to anxiety during the mid-term exam (p=0.022). The acute stress of an exam was strong enough to illicit physiologic blood pressure change, but the chronic stress throughout the semester was not intense enough did not illicit physiologic or immune responses. The volume of aerobic exercise in the vigorous workout group was not great enough to influence immune responses nor disease incidence.


Exercise Science | Immunology and Infectious Disease | Physiology