Human temperature regulation during exercise in the heat : effects of the menstrual cycle and ambient thermal profile : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Behavioural thermoregulation is the most effective means with which we regulate our body temperature at rest and during exercise. Yet, research into behavioural thermoregulation during exercise is still at an emergent stage, as it has not included females, or investigated different thermal profiles. In particular, limited studies are available to describe the behavioural and physiological differences between dry and humid heat for both sexes. Furthermore, it remains unknown whether ambient humidity or temperature alone contribute to the initiation of the behavioural responses during exercise in the heat. Therefore, the first part of this thesis investigated the effects of endogenous and exogenous female ovarian hormones on behavioural and autonomic responses, in both dry and humid heat environments matched according to the heat stress index, WBGT (Chapter Five and Six). The results from Chapter Five clearly show that behavioural and autonomic responses were less affected by menstrual phase, but were affected by the environmental conditions. In particular, trained women reduced their power output in order to nullify the autonomic strain from a humid heat environment. Chapter Six then extended this observation to (trained) women taking combined hormonal contraception, compared to eumenorrheic women in Chapter Five. The results from Chapter Six indicate that greater autonomic strain was observed in women with hormonal contraception, compared to eumenorrheic women, in both dry and humid heat, whilst the behavioural response was similar between those two groups. Furthermore, the behavioural response was different between dry and humid heat, with power output being lower in the humid heat environment compared to dry heat. The second part of this thesis investigated the effects of ambient temperature per se on the interaction of thermoregulatory, cardiovascular and perceptual responses to exercise (Chapter Seven), as well as assessing different exercise modalities (variable-intensity versus fixed-intensity exercise) and their effects on thermoregulation when the duration and average power output were matched (Chapter Eight). The results from Chapter Seven indicate that thermoregulatory and cardiovascular responses were not affected by ambient temperature but that perception was, when vapour pressure was matched between two different thermal profiles. The results from Chapter Eight indicate that self-pacing (behaviour) did not modulate thermoregulatory strain, when both self-paced and fixed-intensity were matched at the same exercise intensity and duration. In conclusion, this thesis extends the knowledge-base on behavioural thermoregulation in trained women and also provides evidence that behavioural and autonomic thermoregulation is influenced more by vapour pressure than ambient temperature of the environment in men. Furthermore, the findings of this thesis confirm that behavioural thermoregulation is effective in modulating physiological strain only when there is a reduction in metabolic heat production.
Figures 3 (p.12), 5 (p.15), 6 (p.17), 7 (p.23), 8 (p.27), 9 (p.29), 10 (p.32) & 11 (p.39) have been removed for copyright reasons, but may be accessed via their source listed in the References. Figure 11 is accessible via
Body temperature, Regulation, Athletes, Physiology, Exercise, Physiological aspects, Heat, Physiological effect, Oral contraceptives, Menstrual cycle