Women See Double The Health Gains from Exercise: Study 

In the battle of the sexes, a recent study has shown that women can see 2x the health gains from exercise versus men. Here's the science behind the findings.
woman beating man in workout

A recent study reveals great news for women: you do not have to push yourself to the limit at the gym to reap long-term health benefits! It is a common observation that, typically, women do not have the physical capacity for the types and durations of exercises men do. However, there is no cause for concern! The latest study concludes that women’s health improves tremendously even if they do lesser-intensity workouts for a shorter amount of time than men. 

Groundbreaking Study

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology recently published a study that provides compelling evidence that women may see greater improvements in cardiovascular and overall health from regular exercise compared to men, even at lower intensities. The study, involving over 412,000 adults tracked for two decades, highlights the importance of exercise for both sexes while suggesting potential physiological differences that impact how men and women benefit.

Important Findings

women with yoga mats

The study showed that women who engaged in physical activity regularly saw a remarkable 36% reduction in their risk of fatal heart attacks or strokes compared to women who remained inactive. In contrast, men who exercised regularly saw a 14% reduction in the same risk. 

Similarly, the study found that overall, exercise reduced the risk of early death from any cause by 24% in women, compared to a 15% reduction in men who exercised.

These stark differences suggest that women may achieve similar, or even greater, health benefits from exercise with potentially shorter workouts and lower intensities on average. This finding carries considerable weight, negating the misconception that women need to exert equal or even greater effort compared to men to experience the same health benefits from exercise.

Cardiologist Dr. Martha Gulati, an author of the study, said:

“Women have historically and statistically lagged behind men in engaging in meaningful exercise. The beauty of this study is learning that women can get more out of each minute of moderate to vigorous activity than men do. It’s an incentivizing notion that we hope women will take to heart.”

The study also states that women typically have a higher percentage of body fat compared to men. However, it clarifies that this isn’t a disadvantage in the context of exercise.

In fact, the study suggests that women’s greater reliance on fat for fuel during workouts may offer an advantage in endurance activities like marathon training. This is because fat provides a sustained source of energy, allowing women to maintain effort for longer durations compared to men, who may deplete their glycogen stores more quickly.

Types of Exercises and Their Effects

woman running

According to the study, when looking at cardiovascular benefits, women who engaged in regular moderate aerobic workout activities (like brisk walking for 2.5 hours a week) saw an 18% reduction in their risk of early death from any cause. For men, achieving the same reduction required an average of five hours of exercise per week.

Similarly, for strength training, women who completed regular strength training sessions saw a 30% reduction in their risk of cardiovascular-related deaths. Men who performed strength training experienced an 11% risk reduction.

The study’s co-author, Dr. Susan Cheng, emphasizes the importance of these findings:

“Even a limited amount of regular exercise can provide a major benefit, and it turns out this is especially true for women. Taking some regular time out for exercise, even if it’s just 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise a few times each week, can offer a lot more gain than they may realize.”

Possible Explanations for This Phenomenon

So, why might women experience these potential benefits at lower intensities? Researchers postulate that several biological factors may contribute to this. For instance, men typically have larger hearts, lungs, and more muscle mass compared to women. This anatomical advantage allows them to generate greater power during exercise. This can explain why they might require longer exercise durations to see the same level of cardiovascular and metabolic adaptation compared to women.

Moreover, the study suggests that women’s bodies have a higher level of physiological adaptation to exercise. Due to this adaptation, even lower-intensity workouts improve their cardiovascular and metabolic efficiency, allowing them to reap similar benefits with shorter workouts or less strenuous activity.

Takeaways from the Findings

woman hanging out after a workout

While the study provides valuable insights into potential sex-based differences in response to exercise, it’s crucial to remember that these are general observations, not absolute rules. Individual factors like age, health status, genetics, and fitness levels profoundly influence both the need and the benefits of exercise for each individual.

Dr Eric Shiroma, working at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, suggested: 

“This study emphasizes that there is no singular approach for exercise. A person’s physical activity needs and goals may change based on their age, health status, and schedule — but the value of any type of exercise is irrefutable.”

Essentially, the message isn’t about who “benefits more” from exercise but rather about understanding your unique response and tailoring your routine accordingly. Consulting a healthcare professional or a certified personal trainer can help you create a personalized plan that maximizes your health benefits, regardless of your gender.

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