Sex differences in leg vasodilation during graded knee extensor exercise in young adults

Beth A. Parker, Sandra L. Smithmyer, Justin A. Pelberg, Aaron D. Mishkin, Michael D. Herr, David N. Proctor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Limb vascular conductance responses to pharmacological and nonexercise vasodilator stimuli are generally augmented in women compared with men. In the present investigation, we tested the hypothesis that exercise-induced vasodilator responses are also greater in women than men. Sixteen women and 15 men (20-30 yr) with similar fitness and activity levels performed graded quadriceps exercise (supine, single-leg knee extensions, 40 contractions/min) to maximal exertion. Active limb hemodynamics (left common femoral artery diameter and volumetric blood flow), heart rate (ECG), and beat-to-beat mean arterial blood pressure (MAP; radial artery tonometry) were measured during each 3-min workload (4.8 and 8 W/stage for women and men, respectively). The hyperemic response to exercise (slope of femoral blood flow vs. workload) was greater (P < 0.01) in women as was femoral blood flow at workloads >15 W. The leg vasodilatory response to exercise (slope of calculated femoral vascular conductance vs. absolute workload) was also greater in women than in men (P < 0.01) because of the sex difference in hyperemia and the women's lower MAP (∼10-15 mmHg) at all workloads (P < 0.05). The femoral artery dilated to a significantly greater extent in the women (∼0.5 mm) than in the men (∼0.1 mm) across all submaximal workloads. At maximal exertion, femoral vascular conductance was lower in the men (men, 18.0 ± 0.6 ml·min-1·mmHg-1; women, 22.6 ± 1.4 ml·min-1·mmHg-1; P < 0.01). Collectively, these findings suggest that the vasodilatory response to dynamic leg exercise is greater in young women vs. men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1583-1591
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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