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News and Events

Running on empty: Researcher examines exercise and body's immunity

Study targets Austin Live Strong Marathon participants

Brian McFarlinColds and flu account for millions of hours of lost work and school time each year. A University of Houston researcher is studying how exercise stresses the body and compromises the body's immune system, increasing susceptibility to infection and illness.  Associate Professor Brian McFarlin of the UH department of health and human performance will study marathon runners participating in the upcoming Austin Live Strong Marathon on Feb. 20.

"The stress that running a marathon places on the body makes the runner susceptible to upper respiratory illnesses, colds and flu," McFarlin said. "We want to know if there is a supplement runners can take to shore up their immune system following such a strenuous event."

McFarlin will be recruiting runners at the Austin Live Strong Marathon Health Expo and Packet Pick Up, Feb. 18th and 19th, at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd. in Austin.  He hopes to recruit 400 participants.  Following the event, runners will be given either the Biothera supplement Wellmune WGP and or a placebo.  For four weeks after the marathon, each participant will fill out a daily survey to rate their perception of their health and wellness.  With those surveys in hand, McFarlin and his research team will evaluate the effectiveness of the supplement.   

"Healthcare is a big concern for people," he said. "Staying home from work or school has consequences, as does going to work while being sick.  Our findings may help other recreational athletes or those who must work outdoors in extreme weather conditions."

The research was commissioned by Biothera, an immune health company, http://biothera.com/.

McFarlin has been researching exercise and the immune system for more than a decade at the UH Laboratory of Integrated Physiology.  Prior studies have used an environmental chamber to control conditions as subjects ride a stationary bike.  He has published more than 40 studies in peer-reviewed journals documenting how exercise disrupts immune system function.       

Read more about the Department of Health and Human Performance.

For more information on Brian McFarlin's research:

—Marisa Ramirez