Cross-sectional studies of exercise-induced reproductive dysfunction have documented a high proportion of menstrual cycle disturbances in women involved in strenuous exercise training. However, longitudinal studies have been needed to examine individual susceptibility to exercise-induced reproductive dysfunction and to elucidate the progression of changes in reproductive function that occur with strenuous exercise training. Using the female cynomolgus monkey (Macaca fascicularis), we documented changes in menstrual cyclicity and patterns of LH, FSH, estradiol, and progesterone secretion as the animals developed exercise-induced amenorrhea. As monkeys gradually increased running to 12.3 ± 0.9 km/day, body weight did not change significantly although food intake remained constant. The time spent training until amenorrhea developed varied widely among animals (7-24 months; mean = 14.3 ± 2.2 months) and was not correlated with initial body weight, training distance, or food intake. Consistent changes in function of the reproductive axis occurred abruptly, one to two menstrual cycles before the development of amenorrhea. These included significant declines in plasma reproductive hormone concentrations, an increase in follicular phase length, and a decrease in luteal phase progesterone secretion. These data document a high level of interindividual variability in the development of exercise-induced reproductive dysfunction, delineate the progression of changes in reproductive hormone secretion that occur with exercise training, and illustrate an abrupt transition from normal cyclicity to an amenorrheic state in exercising individuals, that is not necessarily associated with weight loss.
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