Sex differences in the physiological response to a demanding military field exercise
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Purpose To investigate sex differences in the effect of a military field exercise on physical performance, body composition, and blood biomarkers. Methods Measurements were done in 23 male and 12 female conscripts before, and 0, 1, 3, 7, and 14 days after a 6‐day military field exercise. Results During the field exercise, body mass decreased more in men (−6.5 ± 1.1 kg) than in women (−2.7 ± 0.7 kg), and muscle mass decreased only in men (−2.7 ± 1.0 kg). Body composition recovered within one week. Performance decreased, with no differences between men and women for countermovement jump (CMJ,‐19 ± 8 vs. −18 ± 11%), medicine ball throw (MBT, −11 ± 7 vs. −11 ± 7%), and an anaerobic performance test (EVAC, −55 ± 22 vs. −47 ± 31%, men and women, respectively). MBT and EVAC performance recovered within two weeks, whereas CMJ performance was still reduced in men (−17 ± 6%) and women (−9 ± 8%) after two weeks recovery, with a larger reduction in men. Both men and women decreased [IGF‐1] (−28 ± 9 vs. −41 ± 8%) and increased [cortisol] (26 ± 26 vs. 66 ± 93%, men and women, respectively) during the exercise. Most biomarkers returned to baseline values within one week. Conclusions Men lost more body mass and muscle mass than women during a field exercise, but these differences did not lead to sex differences in changes in explosive strength and anaerobic performance. However, women recovered explosive strength in the legs faster than men.