Exercise increases the production of reactive oxygen species, which may damage a number of cell constituents. Organisms have developed a sophisticated antioxidant system for protection against reactive oxygen species. Our aim was to compare the adaptive responses of antioxidant mechanisms and the blood redox status of two groups of athletes, long-distance and short-distance runners. Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances, catalase activity and total antioxidant capacity was measured in the serum, while reduced and oxidized glutathione as well as their ratio were determined in blood hemolysates. Serum catalase activity (P<0.001) was found to be three times higher in long-distance compared to short-distance runners (25.4 vs. 8.9 micromol x min(-3) x ml(-1)), whereas the two groups did not differ in the other markers. Catalase activity also correlated significantly with maximal oxygen consumption in long-distance runners. In conclusion, we report here that long-distance and short-distance runners exhibit similar blood redox status judged by several oxidative stress indices, except for the much higher activity of catalase in long-distance runners. This different effect of the two training modules on catalase activity of long-distance runners might be partly due to the high oxygen load imposed during their repeated prolonged exercise bouts.