Female acceleration tolerance: effects of menstrual state and physical condition.
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INTRODUCTION: The literature contains a paucity of information on female tolerance to high sustained acceleration. With women now flying high-performance aircraft, gender-specific factors that may affect female acceleration tolerance have become increasingly important. The purpose of this investigation was to determine how menstrual state and physical condition affect acceleration tolerance. We hypothesized the menstrual cycle would have no effect on acceleration tolerance and that a positive correlation would exist between physical fitness level and tolerance to high sustained acceleration. METHODS: Centrifuge exposures on 8 female subjects consisted of a relaxed gradual-onset run (0.1 G.s-1) to the visual endpoint, a rapid-onset run (6 G.s-1) to +5 GZ for 15 s, and a +4.5 to +7 GZ simulated aerial combat maneuver (SACM) to physical exhaustion. Acceleration tolerance data were collected at onset of menstruation and 1, 2 and 3 weeks following the onset for two complete menstrual cycles. On separate days, body composition, anaerobic power output and peak oxygen uptake were determined. Retrospective data from 10 male subjects who had performed the +4.5 to +7 GZ SACM were analyzed and compared to these data. RESULTS: Analysis of variance revealed no significant difference in relaxed tolerance or SACM duration between the four selected menstrual cycle time points. Time-to-fatigue on the +4.5 to +7 GZ SACM was positively (p < or = 0.05) correlated with absolute fat-free mass (r = 0.87) and anaerobic power production (r = 0.76) in female subjects. However, when these variables were adjusted for total body mass, the significant correlations no longer existed. No correlation was found between SACM duration and absolute (L min-1) nor relative (ml.kg-1.min-1) aerobic fitness. Time-to-fatigue during the SACM was not significantly different between male and female subjects (250 +/- 97 and 246 +/- 149 s, respectively).