By Alyssa Bialowas

Exercising in hot conditions is commonplace for both recreational and competitive athletes, and training can be more uncomfortable for women during various times of the month. Training in hot climates while menstruating can add pain to this uncomfortable state, and studies have looked more closely at how heat and exercise effect the immune response of women menstruating. Exercising in the heat stimulates the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to immune disturbances that contribute to the pathology of heat stroke, effecting an athletes ability to train and compete.

The ingestion of oral contraceptives impacts the body’s hormonal balance, and relatively little research has investigated how oral contraceptives effect immune function during exercise. It has been demonstrated that oral contraceptives improve inflammatory status in untrained women and stated that this greater anti-inflammatory environment is likely related to the lower concentration of endogenous estrogen when compared to normally-menstruating women.

A research team from Queensland, Australia investigated the immunoendocrine response to exercise in the heat in women taking oral contraceptives compared to normally-menstruating women.

Related Article: Do Women’s Menstrual Cycles Affect Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage

They investigated – 

  • The study included nine women taking oral contraceptives, and nine women normally menstruating who do not use oral contraceptives. Their immune and stress responses were studied in temperate conditions and hot conditions.
  • All participants performed a cycling trial in three stages at varying degrees of intensity in both conditions. 
  • C-reactive protein (a biomarker of inflammation and tissue damage) and immune cell counts were measured at rest between the conditions, and salivary cortisol was evaluated before and after exercise in both conditions.

What they found?

  • Resting c-reactive protein was three times higher in women taking the oral contraceptives. 
  • There were no differences stress cortisol, or in resting immune cell counts between the two groups.

In conclusion, women using oral contraceptives exhibit similar immune function to naturally menstruating women while exercising in temperate and hot conditions. The increased levels in c-reactive protein in women taking oral contraceptives could be indicative of inflammation, however, whether this effects performance is unclear. Further studies should investigate if this level of increased inflammation induced from taking oral contraceptives influences women’s athletic performance.

Related Article: Can Head Cooling Increase Aerobic Performance in the Heat?

You Might Like:

  • Woman stretching and holding her feet in her hands

The Role Of Foot Strength In Athletic Performance

Hunter Bennett Improving athletic performance is a never-ending endeavor. As a result, we are always on the lookout for new methods of training that can help you jump higher, run faster, and compete at a

  • Two men on a track

Start Positions for Sprinters

Hunter Bennett Sprinting is one of the most incredible acts of human performance on the planet. While at first glance it may seem like quite a simple task (just run as fast as you can,

  • man asleep on a bed with white sheets

How Intermittent Fasting Affects Sleep

Hunter Bennett Intermittent fasting has fast become one of the most popular dietary trends of this century. Suggested to improve health and enhance fat loss, it has been adopted by people across the globe –

  • woman lifting weights

Homocysteine Levels: How They Effect Your Health

Hunter Bennett Over the last few decades, researchers have taken a very deep dive into the various chemicals that appear within the human body. This has been done with the intent to determine how we

  • woman standing on a beach flexing both her arms

Prolonged Fasting for Health & Longevity

Hunter Bennett Throughout history, there has been one thing sought above all others. Something that has constantly re-appeared in a variety of different stories, religions, and mythologies. A thing that many have looked for, and

  • woman checking her pulse

Atrial Fibrillation, Exercise & Health

Hunter Bennett One of the biggest issues we modern society has to deal with is a decline in cardiovascular health and function. To be honest, it is seriously at near epidemic proportions. Within this, the


Cox, A., Fisher, R., Larsen, B., Minahan, C., & Quinn, K. (2018). “Immune Response in Women during

Exercise in the Heat: A Spotlight on Oral Contraception.” Journal of Sport Science and Medicine,

17, 229-236.