Today’s Solutions: April 21, 2024

Women who want to live a longer, healthier life may have just received some good news: according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, women only require half the amount of exercise that men do to enjoy the same longevity advantages.

A little goes a long way!

Dr. Martha Gulati, co-author of the study and director of preventive cardiology at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, believes this discovery encourages women who may struggle to stick to intense training routines. “For me, the news to women is: a little goes a long way,” Gulati asserts.

According to the study, men who engaged in around 300 minutes of aerobic activity per week had an 18 percent lower risk of death than inactive men. Surprisingly, women need only 140 minutes of weekly exercise to get a 24 percent reduction in their risk of death, with longevity benefits plateauing around 300 minutes of weekly activity for both sexes.

Muscle strengthening: overcoming stereotypes

The study also looked into muscle-strengthening workouts, questioning the common belief that more is always better. Gulati claims that a single weekly strength-training session for women provided the same longevity benefits as three weekly exercises for men. This revelation shatters prejudices and emphasizes the physiological distinctions between men and women.

Explaining the phenomenon, Gulati points out, “If they [women] do the same amount of strengthening exercises, they may have greater benefits with smaller doses just based on the fact that they don’t have as much to begin with.” This understanding of the impact of muscle mass and other physiological characteristics has implications for gender-specific exercise recommendations.

Beyond the numbers

Gulati and her team systematically evaluated the self-reported exercise habits of over 400,000 persons in the United States who participated in the National Health Interview Survey between 1997 and 2017. By comparing this data to mortality records, the researchers discovered patterns indicating different exercise thresholds for men and women.

However, it is important to acknowledge the study’s limitations. Its observational nature prevents it from establishing a direct cause-and-effect relationship between exercise and longevity. Despite efforts to account for confounding factors such as previous diseases or lifestyle behaviors, the study’s reliance on self-reported activity data may introduce mistakes.

Changing perspectives: women are not small men

Gulati stresses the study’s broader implications, calling for a change in how we approach health research and public health policies. “Women are not just small men,” she asserts, contradicting the long-held tradition of using men as the standard in numerous health guidelines.

The study highlights the importance of a more sophisticated knowledge of gender-specific exercise requirements. This is especially important in an era when blanket recommendations, frequently based on male-centric studies, may fail to appropriately reflect women’s various health requirements.

Rethinking physical activity guidelines

The government physical activity standards, which take a one-size-fits-all approach to people in the United States, may need to be updated. Gulati calls for a more inclusive perspective that recognizes men’s and women’s varied exercise patterns. “For years, we’ve used men as the standard,” she says, emphasizing the need to reassess and alter standards to better serve all genders.

In 2020, data revealed a considerable disparity between the number of men and women fulfilling the necessary benchmarks. Approximately 28 percent of US men met the requirements, compared to 20 percent of US women. Gulati’s research reveals that women, while not fulfilling these requirements, may nonetheless uncover large longevity gains.

Exercise for everyone

While the study promotes a personalized approach for women, it does not minimize the importance of exercise for males. Gulati affirms that both sexes benefit from even brief bursts of activity, emphasizing a universal message: “Our pitch should be the same to men and women: something is better than nothing. Sit less and move more.”

In a world where time is a valuable commodity, the study provides a ray of optimism, implying that living a longer, healthier life may involve less work than previously believed.

Source study: Journal of the American College of Cardiology— Sex differences in association of physical activity with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality

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