I stumbled upon some great exercise research today by PhD candidate Nikos Margaritelis at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki who studies redox individuality that exemplifies our individual responses to stress. That 1/3 of us respond very little, another 1/3 responds by an improvement in oxidative responses and 1/3 respond by a decrease in oxidative response (glutathione is that channel they studied, they measured via F2-isoprostanes and protein carbonyls). The research was a great reinforcement for when i discuss how we are individuals in our responses to stress and furthermore, and probably more importantly, that by studying the mean response, or the average individual, we are being VERY mislead by research.
When applied to my autism model we may guess that 1/3 of the population is relatively the same or are the average responders. ( I discuss them as the stoics, in autism terminology I refer to that 1/3 population as the “neurotypical”). They have a negligible response to stress. Here that stress is exercise. So to them exercise is easy. It’s a choice. It’s no big deal if they do it or not.
To another third, or say 10% of the extreme other third (estrogen brains or Word-Thinkers), it builds them up, makes them feel better. The respond to stress or pain by upregulating against it. So from their worldview perspective they can’t understand how other people don’t thrive on it (and even sometimes throw judgment at people who don’t). They also typically “need” this kind of stress and challenges to feel good. Intense exercise is an essential part of their mental and physical health.
And then there’s the 10% of the other third (testosterone brains or Pattern-Thinkers) that have their oxidative capacities drop dramatically after exercise. These individuals (like myself) can get sick after exercise (also referred to as “exercise intolerant“). They get the worst judgment (and feel bad about themselves) because they are thought of as weak and whiners…. welcome to my world. And yet, us weaklings in many ways, because we can be so reactive, can sometimes become the strongest (but we have to do it differently)…
Autism amplifies and makes these differences even more extreme....
I hope in Autism we too start studying the individual differences instead of just grouping the spectrum together. I feel it is essential and we can take our learning and application of autism interventions to a whole new level. If we start taking this diversity perspective of stress responses.
I look forward to more great research from Nikolaos.
Reductive stress after exercise: The issue of redox individuality
Margaritelis NV, Kyparos A, Paschalis V, et al. Reductive stress after exercise: The issue of redox individuality. Redox Biology. 2014;2:520-528. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2014.02.003.
Exercise has been consistently used as an oxidant stimulus in redox biology studies. However, previous studies have focused on group differences and did not examine individual differences. As a result, it remains untested whether all individuals experience oxidative stress after acute exercise. Therefore, the main aim of the present study was to investigate whether some individuals exhibit unexpected responses after an acute eccentric (i.e., muscle-damaging) exercise session. Ninety eight (N = 98) young men performed an isokinetic eccentric exercise bout with the knee extensors. Plasma, erythrocytes and urine samples were collected immediately before and 2 days post-exercise. Three commonly used redox biomarkers (F2-isoprostanes, protein carbonyls and glutathione) were assayed. As expected, the two oxidant biomarkers (F2-isoprostanes and protein carbonyls) significantly increased 2 days after exercise (46% and 61%, respectively); whereas a significant decrease in glutathione levels (by −21%) was observed after exercise. A considerable number of the participants exhibited changes in the levels of biomarkers in the opposite, unexpected direction than the group average. More specifically, 13% of the participants exhibited a decrease in F2-isoprostanes and protein carbonyls and 10% of the participants exhibited an increase in glutathione levels. Furthermore, more than 1 out of 3 individuals exhibited either unexpected or negligible (from 0% to ± 5%) responses to exercise in at least one redox biomarker. It was also observed that the initial values of redox biomarkers are important predictors of the responses to exercise. In conclusion, although exercise induces oxidative stress in the majority of individuals, it can induce reductive stress or negligible stress in a considerable number of people. The data presented herein emphasize that the mean response to a redox stimulus can be very misleading. We believe that the wide variability (including the cases of reductive stress) described is not limited to the oxidant stimulus used and the biomarkers selected.