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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Oct 23. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002192. [Epub ahead of print]

Exercise and Executive Function during Follicular and Luteal Menstrual Cycle Phases.

Author information

1
School of Kinesiology, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.
2
Canadian Center for Activity and Aging, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.
3
Graduate Program in Neuroscience, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

A single-bout of aerobic or resistance exercise improves executive function. We sought to determine whether menstrual cycle variations in ovarian hormone concentrations differentially influences the expression and/or magnitude of a post-exercise executive benefit.

METHODS:

Eumenorrheic female participants completed 20-min single-bouts of aerobic exercise (via cycle ergometer) at a moderate intensity (i.e., 80% of estimated lactate threshold) during the early-follicular (FOL) and mid-luteal (LUT) phases of their menstrual cycle. Pre- and post-exercise executive function was examined via antisaccades - an executive task requiring a saccade mirror-symmetrical to a visual stimulus. Antisaccades are an ideal tool for examining post-exercise executive changes because the task is mediated via the same frontoparietal networks as modified following single-bout and chronic exercise.

RESULTS:

Antisaccade reaction times decreased from the pre- to post-exercise assessments by an average of 22 ms (p=.003) and this benefit was independent of changes in directional errors or endpoint accuracy (ps>.26). In other words, participants did not decrease their post-exercise RTs at the cost of increased planning or execution errors. Most notably, the post-exercise antisaccade benefit did not vary in magnitude across FOL or LUT phases (p=.33) and a two one-sided test statistic (i.e., equivalence testing) provided support for the null hypothesis (p=.008).

CONCLUSIONS:

A post-exercise executive benefit is independent of hormonal variations in the menstrual cycle. Further, our results evince that the phase of a female participant's menstrual cycle should not be a limiting factor in determining their inclusion in exercise neuroscience research.

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