Exercise VE and physical performance at altitude are not affected by menstrual cycle phase

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 May;86(5):1519-26. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1999.86.5.1519.


We hypothesized that progesterone-mediated ventilatory stimulation during the midluteal phase of the menstrual cycle would increase exercise minute ventilation (VE; l/min) at sea level (SL) and with acute altitude (AA) exposure but would only increase arterial O2 saturation (SaO2, %) with AA exposure. We further hypothesized that an increased exercise SaO2 with AA exposure would enhance O2 transport and improve both peak O2 uptake (VO2 peak; ml x kg-1 x min-1) and submaximal exercise time to exhaustion (Exh; min) in the midluteal phase. Eight female lowlanders [33 +/- 3 (mean +/- SD) yr, 58 +/- 6 kg] completed a VO2 peak and Exh test at 70% of their altitude-specific VO2 peak at SL and with AA exposure to 4,300 m in a hypobaric chamber (446 mmHg) in their early follicular and midluteal phases. Progesterone levels increased (P < 0.05) approximately 20-fold from the early follicular to midluteal phase at SL and AA. Peak VE (101 +/- 17) and submaximal VE (55 +/- 9) were not affected by cycle phase or altitude. Submaximal SaO2 did not differ between cycle phases at SL, but it was 3% higher during the midluteal phase with AA exposure. Neither VO2 peak nor Exh time was affected by cycle phase at SL or AA. We conclude that, despite significantly increased progesterone levels in the midluteal phase, exercise VE is not increased at SL or AA. Moreover, neither maximal nor submaximal exercise performance is affected by menstrual cycle phase at SL or AA.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Anaerobic Threshold / physiology
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Progesterone / physiology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Rest / physiology


  • Estrogens
  • Progesterone