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Ergonomics. 2000 Oct;43(10):1559-70.

Decreased submaximal oxygen uptake during short duration oral contraceptive use: a randomized cross-over trial in premenopausal women.

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Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, UK.


Long-term oral contraceptive (OC) use is known to be associated with changes in haemostasis, cardiovascular dynamics, and carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Less well documented are the short-term variations in cardiorespiratory responses to exercise during the menstrual cycle of OC users. In this study the short-term effects of the usage of OC on cardiorespiratory and ventilatory responses to submaximal exercise were examined. Ten women (age = 23 +/- 3 years) on monophasic OC were tested at three different times during their 'cycle': during menstruation, off OC use (off OC: days 2-4), early on OC use (EOC: days 7 - 9) and late on OC use (LOC: days 19 - 21). Times of testing were assigned randomly. On each occasion participants performed a continuous 12-min run exercise on a treadmill at three submaximal intensities (averaging 7, 8 and 9 km h(-1)), each for 4 min. Heart rate, ventilation (VE), oxygen uptake (VO2), carbon dioxide output (VCO2), respiratory exchange ratio and running economy were assessed in the last minute of each stage of exercise. No significant variations were observed between the different times for heart rate, VE, and VCO2 irrespective of the stage of exercise (p > 0.05). Using two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures on both factors (three stages and three times), VO2 (ml kg(-1) min(-1)) was lower by 3% to 5.8% when participants were on early and late OC use compared to off OC regardless of the stage of the exercise (F(2,18) = 6.3; p = 0.008). Running economy (ml O2 kg(-1) km(-1)) was significantly improved (lower values) when women were on late OC use compared to off OC regardless of the stage of exercise. No significant interaction effect between stage of exercise and time of pill usage was demonstrated in any of the parameters studied. Results suggest that oral contraceptive users may expect lower VO2 and better running economy during the pill ingestion phase and consequently have implications for exercise performances.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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