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Manual handling performance: the effects of menstrual cycle phase

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Physiological and subjective responses to physical performance have been shown to interrelate with fluctuations in the female hormonal environment throughout the menstrual cycle. The aim of this study was to examine whether these fluctuations affect the strenuous performance required in manual handling. Seventeen eumenorrheic females performed lifting tasks in five phases of their menstrual cycle. These tasks were maximal isometric lifting strength (MILS) and an endurance lift at 45% MILS (t), at both knee and waist height; and the selection of a maximal acceptable load (MAL) to lift six times per min, for 10 min, in both the sagittal and asymmetric planes. Heart rate response (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded throughout each of the lifting tasks. MILS, t and the chosen MAL were unaffected by menstrual phase over both heights and planes of lift (p>0.05). HR to the isometric endurance lift was greater following ovulation than prior to ovulation by ~ 7 beats.min - 1 (p> 0.05). This was true when the data were analysed at 50, 80 and 100% of the time to volitional fatigue, and by an area under the curve procedure. HR to the dynamic lifting tasks was also elevated by ~ 7 beats.min -1 following ovulation. This difference was non-significant due to the low power of the analysis. Re-analysis of the data by re-sampling 1000 matched comparisons produced significant phase variations (p> 0.05). The RPE for all of the lifting tasks was independent of menstrual phase (p> 0.05). The impact of the eumenorrheic menstrual cycle on lifting capability was negligible in the present study. However, the results of this study indicate that all further investigations utilizing HR data to produce recommendations for health and safety in manual handling tasks must control for menstrual cycle phase in female populations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 1999

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