Hormonal and metabolic response to three types of exercise of equal duration and external work output

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Five normal men, aged 20–30 years, participated in three types of exercise (I, II, III) of equal duration (20 min) and total external work output (120–180 kJ) separated by ten days of rest. Exercises consisted of seven sets of squats with barbells on the shoulders (I; Maximal Power Output \(\dot W\) max=600−900 W), continuous cycling at 50 rev · min−1 (II; \(\dot W\) max=100−150 W) and seven bouts of intermittent cycling at 70 rev · min−1 (III; \(\dot W\) max=300−450 W).

Plasma cortisol, glucagon and lactate increased significantly (P<0.05) during the exercise and recovery periods of the anaerobic, intermittent exercise (I and III) but not in the continuous, aerobic exercise (II). No consistent significant changes were found in plasma glucose. Plasma insulin levels decreased only during exercise II. The highest increase in cortisol and glucagon was not associated with the highest \(\dot V_E \) , \(\dot V_{O_2 } \) , \(\dot W\) max or HR; however it was associated with the anaerobic component of exercise (lactic acid). It is suggested that in exercises of equal duration and total external work output, the continuous, aerobic exercise (II) led to lowest levels of glucogenic hormones.