Catecholamines & Exercise

written by runnergirl training

What are catecholamines and how do they relate to exercise? Catecholamines are adrenal gland hormones and are dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and they release catecholamines when an individual is stressed physically or emotionally (MedlinePlus, 2013).

Physiologically epinephrine increases the heart rate and constricts the blood vessels throughout the body (Klabunde, 2013). These actions are required by the body when performing exercise and are what helps get the body in motion.

What, if any, responses to exercise to catecholamines play? For endurance trained individuals there is an increased adrenaline response compared to untrained individuals for high intensity aerobic exercise. This is due to an occurrence termed the sports adrenal medulla (Zouhal, Jacob, Delamarche and Gratas-Delamarche, 2008). Conversely, Kjaer (1998) reported that at a same workload the endurance trained had a lower adrenal response than the untrained participants. However, when presented with non-exercise stimuli the adrenaline response for the endurance trained was higher than the untrained participants. This result is an adaptation of the glands from long term physical conditioning also known as the sports adrenal medulla.

Even though there is a debate in the literature regarding the impact of catecholamines on trained verses untrained individuals it is a topic worth continuing to investigate. They are necessary in the response to exercise and psychological stress for the fight or flight mechanism. In conclusion it would be beneficial to definitively show the adaptation of this system due to the response to physical training.

Klabunde, R. (2013). Cardiovascular Physiology Concepts. Retrieved from

Kjaer, M. (1998). Adrenal medulla and exercise training. European Journal Appied Physiology Occupational Physiology, 77 (3), 195-199.

MedlinePlus (2013). Catecholamine-blood. Retrieved from

Zouhal, H., Jacob, C., Delamarche, P., Gratas-Delamarche, A. (2008).  Catecholamine and the effects of exercise, training, and gender. Sports Medicine (38) 5, 401-423.

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