Health: Women achieve health benefits through exercise

Women need to do significantly less exercise to achieve the same health benefits as men.

Health: Women achieve health benefits through exercise

Women need to do significantly less exercise to achieve the same health benefits as men. This is the result of a US-Chinese study of more than 400,000 people over the period from 1997 to 2019.

Men achieved a maximum reduction in the risk of death if they did around 300 minutes of physical exercise per week. Women only needed 140 minutes, as the group led by Martha Gulati from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles (US state of California) and Hongwei Ji from Tsinghua University in Beijing reported in the specialist magazine "Journal of the American College of Cardiology" (" JACC") writes.

Cardiovascular diseases

"Women lag behind men when it comes to engaging in meaningful exercise," Gulati is quoted as saying in a statement from her institution. She and her colleagues wanted to know what effects exercise has on health and used a nationwide database, the “National Health Interview Survey”. The 412,413 adults selected from this, 55 percent of whom were women, provided information in the survey using a questionnaire about the type and extent of their sporting activity per week. In the more than 20-year study period, almost 40,000 participants died, including 11,670 from cardiovascular diseases.

The researchers now determined to what extent the risk of death decreased through sport. Regular sporting activity in leisure time reduced this risk by an average of 15 percent for men and 24 percent for women - in each case compared to people who did not do any sport.

With regard to cardiovascular diseases, the reduction through exercise was 14 percent for men and 36 percent for women. The difference was similarly large for sports exercises that strengthen the muscles: Regular strength training reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases by 11 percent in men and by 30 percent in women.

Result no surprise

When men exercised very intensively for 110 minutes per week, their risk of death fell by 19 percent. Women reached this value after just 57 minutes of intensive training. "The beauty of this study is that women can get more out of every minute of moderate to vigorous activity than men," emphasizes Gulati. She and her team hope that the study results will encourage more women to be physically active, as the time required to have a positive health effect is not particularly great.

For Kuno Hottenrott from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the result is no surprise. “I have long advocated that the sports recommendations in health guidelines should be differentiated more according to gender and age,” emphasizes the sports scientist. In 2008 he had already developed a formula for calculating the ideal pulse rate for endurance sports that took differences between women and men into account. On average, women have significantly lower muscle mass, a lower metabolic rate, smaller body dimensions and a lower blood volume than men, explains Hottenrott.