Vigorous exercise is associated with oxidative stress, a state that involves modifications to bodily molecules due to release of pro-oxidant species. Assessment of such modifications provides non-specific measures of oxidative stress in human tissues and blood, including circulating lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a very heterogeneous group of white blood cells, consisting of subtypes that have different functions in immunity. Importantly, exercise drastically changes the lymphocyte composition in blood by increasing the numbers of some subsets, while leaving other cells unaffected. This fact may imply that observed changes in oxidative stress markers are confounded by changes in lymphocyte composition. For example, lymphocyte subsets may differ in exposure to oxidative stress because of subset differences in cell division and the acquisition of cytotoxic effector functions. The aim of the present review is to raise awareness of interpretational issues related to the assessment of oxidative stress in lymphocytes with exercise and to address the relevance of lymphocyte subset phenotyping in these contexts
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