A sex-specific relationship between capillary density and anaerobic threshold

Jennifer L. Robbins, Brian D. Duscha, Daniel R. Bensimhon, Karlman Wasserman, James E. Hansen, Joseph A. Houmard, Brian H. Annex, William E. Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Although both capillary density and peak oxygen consumption (V̇O 2) improve with exercise training, it is difficult to find a relationship between these two measures. It has been suggested that peak V̇O2 may be more related to central hemodynamics than to the oxidative potential of skeletal muscle, which may account for this observation. We hypothesized that change in a measure of submaximal performance, anaerobic threshold, might be related to change in skeletal muscle capillary density, a marker of oxidative potential in muscle, with training. Due to baseline differences among these variables, we also hypothesized that relationships might be sex specific. A group of 21 subjects completed an inactive control period, whereas 28 subjects (17 men and 11 women) participated in a 6-mo high-intensity exercise program. All subjects were sedentary, overweight, and dyslipidemic. Potential relationships were assessed between change in capillary density with both change in V̇O2 at peak and at anaerobic threshold with exercise training. All variables and relationships were assessed for sex-specific effects. Change in peak V̇O2 was not related to change in capillary density after exercise training in either sex. Men had a positive correlation between change in V̇O2 at anaerobic threshold and change in capillary density with exercise training (r = 0.635; P < 0.01), whereas women had an inverse relationship (r = -0.636; P < 0.05) between the change in these variables. These findings suggest that, although enhanced capillary density is associated with training-induced improvements in submaximal performance in men, this relationship is different in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1181-1186
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Exercise
  • Peak oxygen consumption
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Studies of a targeted risk reduction intervention through defined exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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