The adaptive effects of exercise-induced inflammation and reactive oxygen species production has been well studied in adults, but not in children. Characterizing the exercise responses in children compared with adults will start clarifying the transition from the child phenotype to that of an adult. Ten children aged 8–10 and 12 adults aged 19–21 performed 2 × 30-min bouts of continuous cycling, separated by a 6-min rest period, at a target work rate of 60% of their maximum aerobic capacity. Blood samples were collected pre- and immediately postexercise, and analyzed for neutrophil count, systemic oxidative and inflammatory markers, and intracellular neutrophil-derived reactive oxygen species. Although postexercise absolute neutrophils increased by approximately twofold in men (2.72 ± 0.49 × 109/L to 4.85 ± 2.05 × 109/L;
p= .007), boys showed no such change (3.18 ± 0.67 × 109/L to 3.57 ± 0.73 × 109/L; p= .52). Contrary to these findings, boys did show an increase in overall intracellular neutrophil ROS production, whereas men did not. Boys also demonstrated higher overall protein carbonyl levels (0.07 nmol/mg vs 0.04 nmol/mg; boys vs men respectively), whereas men showed higher overall malondialdehyde (0.24 μM vs 0.67 μM; boys vs men respectively). The differences observed in the exercise-induced inflammatory and oxidative stress response may indicate growth-mediated adaptive responses to exercise during childhood development.