Influences of gender on sympathetic nerve responses to static exercise

Steven M. Ettinger, David H. Silber, Belinda G. Collins, Kristen S. Gray, Greg Sutliff, Sandra K. Whisler, Joseph M. McClain, Michael B. Smith, Qing X. Yang, Lawrence I. Sinoway

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162 Scopus citations


We compared reflex responses to static handgrip at 30% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) in 26 untrained men (mean age 35 ± 3 yr) and 23 untrained women (mean age 39 ± 4 yr). Women demonstrated attenuated increases in blood pressure and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA; by microneurography) compared with men. This difference was also observed during a period of posthandgrip circulatory arrest. 31P-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy studies demonstrated attenuations in the production of diprotonated phosphate and the development of cellular acidosis in women compared with men. Subjects also performed ischemic handgrip to fatigue. During this paradigm, MSNA responses were similar in the two groups, suggesting that freely perfused conditions are necessary for the full expression of the gender effect. Finally, we examined MSNA responses to adductor pollicus exercise in 7 men (26 ± 1 yr) and 6 women (25 ± 2 yr). MVC values and times to fatigue were similar in the two groups (MVC: men, 4.3 ± 0.4 kg; women, 4.0 ± 0.3 kg; not significant. Time to fatigue: men, 209 ± 16 s; women, 287 ± 50 s; not significant). At periods of end exercise and postexercise circulatory arrest, MSNA responses were attenuated in the women compared with the men. We conclude that, during nonischemic static exercise, sympathetic neural outflow is less in women compared with men. This response is due to an attenuated metaboreflex in women. Finally, on the basis of the adductor pollicus experiments, this effect appears independent of muscle mass, workload, and the level of training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-251
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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