Int J Sports Med 1992; 13(4): 332-336
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-1021276
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Cortisol Levels during Prolonged Exercise: The Influence of Menstrual Phase and Menstrual Status

J. A. Kanaley, R. A. Boileau, J. M. Bahr, J. E. Misner, R. A. Nelson
  • Departments of Kinesiology, Animal Sciences and Internal Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL 68101
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Publication History

Publication Date:
14 March 2008 (online)


The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of menstrual phase and menstrual Status on the cortisol response during 90 minutes of treadmill running at 60% V̇O2max. Eight eumenhorrheic athletes were tested in the early follicular (EF) (day 3-5), late follicular (LF) (day 13-15) and mid luteal (ML) (day 22-24) phases. Six amenorrheic athletes were tested on two separate occasions. The resting cortisol levels were similar in each menstrual phase and overall a decreasing pattern of cortisol response to exercise was observed in all menstrual phases (P > .05). The amenorrheic athletes had a significantly greater (P < .01) pattern of cortisol response than was observed in eumenorrheic athletes. The net increment in cortisol levels during exercise were distinctly greater (P < .01) in amenorrheic than eumenorrheic athletes (amenorrheic: 413.8±113.1, eumenorrheic: EF: -482.8 + 88.3, LF: -311.8±102.1, ML: -386.3±146.2 nmol·1-1). In conclusion the cortisol levels are independent of menstrual phase. Also a larger cortisol increment is observed in amenorrheic athletes in response to prolonged submaximal exercise. The elevated cortisol levels in amenorrheics at rest and throughout exercise provides further evidence that disturbances in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function are associated with exercise-induced amenorrhea, although the site(s) of physiological disturbance have not been identified.