Foto: UiT - Norges arktiske universitet
Foto: UiT - Norges arktiske universitet


The Female Endurance Athlete (FENDURA): Exploring the missing link in exercise physiology

Boye Welde
PERIOD: 2020 – 2023

The differences between men and women in physical development accelerate from the onset of puberty, mainly driven by changes in circulating levels of sex-specific hormones. Thus, women will respond differently to exercise than men, and should not be treated as “small men”. However, our current understanding of exercise physiology is mainly developed via research on men, and there is sparse understanding of women’s exercise physiology due to limited consideration for sex-specific differences such as the influence of the menstrual cycle and use of hormonal contraceptives.

The primary objective of the female endurance athlete (FENDURA) project is to provide the scientific basis for optimising long-term training responses and performance development of female athletes in endurance sports and in the prevention of health-related side-effects specific to female athletes. Our research 1) investigates the physiological, performance and training development of female endurance athletes who have reached the world-class competitive level; 2) examines how the phases of the menstrual cycle and the possible use of contraceptives affect the quality of training, performance and severity of menstrual side-effects in female cross-country skiers and biathletes; and 3) considers the effect of hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle on the development of endurance and strength parameters in female cross-country skiers and biathletes.

Through these studies, we aim to develop new knowledge that increases coaches and athletes’ understanding, and performance, of female endurance athletes. In addition, we aim to progress scientific research that benefits the health of all women who participate in sports and possibly, as well, enhance sport participation.

The FENDURA project, led by the School of Sport Sciences at UiT The Arctic University of Norway and financed by the Tromsø Research Foundation, works in collaboration with the main partners; the Norwegian Olympic Top Sport Centre (Olympiatoppen) and the NTNU Centre for Elite Sport Research, as well as national and international research networks. We provide high-quality academic training to developing researchers, to ensure sustainability of research activity in the project sphere. We have also built a solid foundation in Northern Norway with an inter-disciplinary, world-leading research group that focuses on female physiology, exercise and performance, and ensures that UiT is an internationally recognized academic institution in this field.