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Ambient temperature and the pituitary hormone responses to exercise in humans

Bridge, Matthew W. and Weller, Andrew S. and Rayson, Mark P. and Jones, David A. (2003) Ambient temperature and the pituitary hormone responses to exercise in humans. Experimental physiology, 88 (5). pp. 627-35. ISSN 0958-0670

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Abstract

Pituitary hormones have an important role during exercise yet relatively little is known about the stimulus for their release. Body temperature progressively increases during prolonged steady-state exercise in the heat and we have investigated the role that this may play in the release of prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol (as an indicator of adrenocorticotropic hormone) into the circulation. Fit young male subjects exercised at 73% V(O2,max) until volitional fatigue at 20 degrees C and at 35 degrees C (30% relative humidity at both temperatures). Rectal temperature and mean skin temperature were monitored and blood samples analysed for lactate, glucose, cortisol, growth hormone and prolactin concentrations. During the first 20 min, core temperature rose continuously and to a similar extent at both temperatures, while mean skin temperature was approximately 4 degrees C lower during exercise in the cool. Blood glucose concentration was essentially constant throughout the period of exercise while lactate concentration increased in the first 10 min and then remained constant with very similar changes in the two exercise conditions. Prolactin and growth hormone concentrations both increased during the exercise period while the concentration of cortisol declined slightly before rising slightly over the 40 min period. Prolactin release was significantly greater when exercise was carried out in the heat while there was no difference in the release of growth hormone or cortisol in the two conditions. When plotted as a function of rectal temperature, growth hormone concentration showed a linear relationship which was the same at ambient temperatures of 35 degrees C and 20 degrees C. Prolactin concentration had a curvilinear relationship with rectal temperature and this differed markedly at the two ambient temperatures. Cortisol concentration showed no dependence on any measure of body temperature. Our results are consistent with some aspect of body temperature being a stimulus for growth hormone and prolactin secretion; however, the precise mechanism clearly differs between the two hormones and we suggest that skin temperature modulates prolactin release, but does not affect the release of growth hormone.

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