Maximal oxygen uptake, anaerobic threshold and running economy in women and men with similar performances level in marathons

  • Jan Helgerud


Sex differences in running economy (gross oxygen cost of running, CR), maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), anaerobic threshold (Than), percentage utilization of aerobic power (% VO2max), and Than during running were investigated. There were six men and six women aged 20–30 years with a performance time of 2 h 40 min over the marathon distance. The VO2max, Than, and CR were measured during controlled running on a treadmill at 1° and 3° gradient. From each subject's recorded time of running in the marathon, the average speed (vM) was calculated and maintained during the treadmill running for 11 min. The VO2 max was inversely related to body mass (mb), there were no sex differences, and the mean values of the reduced exponent were 0.65 for women and 0.81 for men. These results indicate that for running the unit ml·kg−0.75·min−1 is convenient when comparing individuals with different mb. The VO2max was about 10% (23 ml·kg−0.75·min−1) higher in the men than in the women. The women had on the average 10–12 ml·kg−0.75·min−1 lower VO2 than the men when running at comparable velocities. Disregarding sex, the mean value of CR was 0.211 (SEM 0.005) ml·kg−1·m−1 (resting included), and was independent of treadmill speed. No sex differences in Than expressed as % VO2max or percentage maximal heart rate were found, but Than expressed as VO2 in ml·kg−0.75·min−1 was significantly higher in the men compared to the women. The percentage utilization of femax and concentration of blood lactate at vM was higher for the female runners. The women ran 2 days more each week than the men over the first 4 months during the half year preceding the marathon race. It was concluded that the higher VO2max and Than in the men was compensated for by more running, superior CR, and a higher exercise intensity during the race in the performance-matched female marathon runners.

Key words

Sex differences Marathon Anaerobic threshold Aerobic power Running economy Body dimensions 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Helgerud
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SportsUniversity of TrondheimDragvollNorway

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