The Surprising Truth About Women and Exercise

The Surprising Truth About Women and Exercise

It may come as a surprise to many, but women may not have to spend as much time as men in the gym to achieve the same health benefits. A recent study conducted by experts at the Schmidt Heart Institute in California has revealed that, after the same dose of physical activity, women actually gain greater long-term health benefits than men. The study, which tracked over 400,000 adults in the United States from 1997 to 2019, compared physical activity levels with deaths from various illnesses. While female participants engaged in less physical exercise than their male counterparts, those who did engage in at least some form of physical activity each week reduced their risk of mortality by up to 24 percent. In contrast, males who engaged in regular physical activity only saw a 15 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.

The findings of the study suggest that male and female individuals may require different doses of regular muscle strengthening and cardio exercise to reap the full benefits of physical activity. Male participants in the study reached their maximal survival benefit after five hours of cardio per week, while females achieved the same benefits with just over two hours of moderate to vigorous cardio weekly. When it came to weightlifting or core body work, males reached their peak survival benefit after three sessions a week, while females attained the same gains from just one session weekly. This highlights the importance of tailoring exercise recommendations to individual sex differences.

Researchers are unsure why these sex differences in exercise requirements exist, but they have proposed a few theories. One possible explanation is that women, with less lean body mass, may need to engage in physical activity to train their cardiovascular system into working more efficiently. Studies have shown that women exhibit greater vascular conductance and blood flow during exercise, suggesting that their bodies may utilize physical activity in a different way than men. This underscores the importance of recognizing and understanding the unique physiological differences between male and female individuals when it comes to exercise.

The study’s findings have significant implications for public health recommendations regarding physical exercise. While there is often a perceived gender gap in exercise habits, the study shows that women’s mortality risk is actually more greatly reduced for any given amount or frequency of exercise as compared to men. This challenges the notion that women need to exercise as much as men to achieve the same health benefits. Physiologist Emmanuel Stamatakis noted that women may exert more physical effort for a given task, which could explain their greater health benefits from exercise. Moving forward, it is crucial for public health guidelines to consider these sex differences and move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to physical health.

The study’s findings shed light on the surprising truth about women and exercise. While men and women may have different exercise requirements, female individuals can actually achieve greater health benefits with less physical activity than their male counterparts. Understanding and acknowledging these sex differences in exercise can lead to more personalized and effective public health recommendations. By recognizing the unique physiological differences between men and women, we can tailor exercise guidelines to better promote optimal health and well-being for all individuals.


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