Influence of the menstrual cycle on physical and cognitive performance in eumenorrheic women
Authors: Ines Pinas Bonilla 1, Pablo Abian 2, Alfredo Bravo-Sanchez 3, Maria Ramirez-de la Cruz 1, Fernando Jimenez 1, Javier Abian-Vicen 1
- Performance and Sport Rehabilitation Laboratory (DEPORSALUD). Faculty of Sports Sciences. University of Castilla-La Mancha. Toledo.
- Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Comillas Pontifical University. Madrid.
- Faculty of Health Sciences. Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. Pozuelo de Alarcon. Madrid.
Journal: Archivos de Medicina del Deporte - August 2023, Volume 40, Issue 3, Pages 131-138
Introduction: The female sexual hormones typical of the menstrual cycle not only have reproductive functions, they also influence other physiological systems and can affect sports and cognitive performance. The purpose of this study has been to evaluate different aspects such as body composition, endurance, muscle strength and some cognitive abilities at different stages of the menstrual cycle.
Material and method: Eight young eumenorrheic women (age = 23.1 ± 4.4 years) with regular menstrual cycles participated in the study. A densitometry and bioimpedance test were performed to study body composition, a short-term visual memory test and a reaction time test to assess cognitive abilities, and muscle characteristics (thickness and stiffness of the anterior rectus and muscle strength) along with a progressive test to exhaustion were analyzed to assess performance during the mid-follicular (FF) and mid-luteal (FL) phases of the participants’ menstrual cycle.
Results: During the follicular phase, the participants registered a greater total time (FF = 488.5 ± 93.18 s vs. FL = 468.6 ± 81.29 s; P = 0.015) and a lower initial heart rate (FF = 83.3 ± 10.23 PPM vs. FL = 92.9 ± 7.67 PPM; P = 0.034) in the progressive test to exhaustion. Regarding cognitive abilities, in the follicular phase, better results were obtained in reaction time both with the right hand (FF = 0.426 ± 0.082 s vs. FL = 0.453 ± 0.087 s; P = 0.036) and with the left hand (FF = 0.435 ± 0.096 s vs. FL = 0.466 ± 0.077 s; P = 0.034). On the other hand, a higher percentage of fat (FF = 27.3 ± 5.1% vs. FL = 27.9 ± 5.0%; P = 0.041) was found in the luteal phase.
Conclusion: Performance in endurance and in cognitive test, such as reaction time was better in the Follicular Phase, while a higher percentage of fat was observed in the Luteal Phase. However, memory, strength and muscular characteristics were not affected by the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle.
Keywords: menstrual cycle, woman, cognitive aspects, performance, physical activity
We can conclude that body composition, reaction time and re- sistance test performance are different in the phases of the menstrual cycle analysed (luteal phase and follicular phase). In the luteal phase, a higher fat percentage and more total fat are found than in the follicular phase, while performance in reaction time and the resistance test is better in the follicular phase. On the other hand, short-term memory, muscle thickness and stiffness, and strength are not been affected by the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle.