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  • Writer's pictureWorld Half Full

Same benefit, half the effort


Turns out there is a gender gap between men and women when it comes to working out — and it favours women, who are less likely to exercise as often. And it’s based on a massive study over many years.

Data from 412,000 adults in the US shows females get more ‘heart health benefit’ from exercise than males. They can get the same benefits from exercise as men, but with less effort, says Professor Martha Gulati, director of Preventive Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles. She explains that women have historically lagged behind men in how often they engage in meaningful exercise.

“The beauty of this study is learning women can get more out of each minute of moderate to vigorous activity than men do,” Gulati notes.

The team analysed 22 years of data gathered by the National Health Interview Survey and have published their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The key finding: women can exercise less often than men, yet receive greater heart gains.

“For all adults engaging in any regular physical activity, compared to being inactive, mortality risk was lower,” says the studys senior author Professor Susan Cheng. “Intriguingly, though, mortality risk was reduced by 24 percent in women and 15 percent in men.”

The team also studied moderate to vigorous physical activity — such as brisk walking or cycling — and found that men reached their maximal survival benefit from doing this level of exercise for about five hours a week while women achieved the same from half the time. When it came to weightlifting and other muscle-strengthening body exercises, men reach their peak from doing three sessions a week compared to women who only need one.

The study also showed that women achieved maximal survival benefit if they exercise for 140 minutes a week, while men need as much at 300 minutes a week to gain the same benefits. Women continue to get further benefits for up to 300 minutes a week.

Professor Christine Albert, who chairs the department of cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, hopes women will take the research to heart. “I am hopeful this pioneering research will motivate women who are not currently engaged in regular physical activity to understand they are in a position to gain tremendous benefit for each increment of regular exercise they are able to invest in their longer-term health.”

The beauty of this study is learning women can get more out of each minute of moderate to vigorous activity than men do.

Martha Gulati

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