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Among women, there is an increased prevalence of sedentary lifestyle and less participation in physical activity at levels recommended by the Surgeon General. As a result, women have been identified as a target group in public health initiatives to increase physical activity. The health-related benefits of habitual, moderate intensity physical activity are well documented in the epidemiological literature, but less is known about the effect of such physical activity on cardiorespiratory fitness. Our hypothesis was that moderate and vigorous exercise training regimens of similar estimated energy expenditure would result in similar changes in cardiorespiratory fitness. Eighteen sedentary premenopausal women with the following baseline characteristics [x ± SE]: maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) = 29.5 ± 1.5ml ● kg-1 ● min-1; age=33 ± 1 years; height=162.6 ± 0.9 cm; mass = 62.7 ± 2.3 kg, were randomly assigned to either vigorous (HI, 80% VO2max, n=10) or moderate intensity (MOD, 40% VO2max, n=8) cycle ergometer training groups. Exercise training was conducted 3-4 (3.37 ± 0.05) days/week for 12 weeks in a supervised and progressive manner, with estimated exercise energy expenditure equated across both training groups. VO2max and time to exhaustion increased significantly in both groups (p<0.05), with no difference between groups. Both groups had lower (p<0.05) posttraining submaximal heart rates (HR), respiratory exchange ratios (RER), and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) during graded exercise testing, with no significant differences between the groups in posttraining values. Women participating in moderate intensity exercise training as recommended in basic public health guidelines demonstrate an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness similar to that elicited by vigorous training.


Branch, J. D., Pate, R. R., & Bourque, S. P. (2000). Moderate intensity exercise training improves cardiorespiratory fitness in women. Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 9(1), 65-73.

DOI: 10.1089/152460900318984

© Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 2000, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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