- Researchers found that women may get more cardiovascular benefits from exercise
- Women can do half the hours of aerobic activity and still benefit, researchers say
Women only need to exercise half as much as men to get the same heart health benefits, according to a study.
Those who cycle, swim or run regularly are much less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke compared to men, even when they exert less effort.
Overall, women and men with active lifestyles were 24 to 15 percent less likely to die prematurely compared to those who led sedentary lives.
Women were also 36 percent less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, compared with 14 percent among men, the researchers found.
Experts said the findings should encourage more women to exercise; Knowing a little can make a real difference.
Those who cycle, swim or run regularly are significantly less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke compared to men, even when they exert less effort, researchers say.
Martha Gulati, a cardiologist at the Smidt Heart Institute in Cedars-Sinai, California, said, “Historically and statistically, women have lagged behind men in engaging in meaningful exercise.”
“The good thing about this study is finding that women can get more out of each minute of moderate to vigorous activity than men.
“It’s an empowering notion that we hope women take seriously.”
Research involving more than 400,000 American adults between 1997 and 2019 found that women were the biggest beneficiaries of everything from brisk walking to intensive exercise.
While men have to complete 300 minutes (or five hours) of moderate exercise to fully benefit, the fairer sex can achieve the same benefits with just 140 minutes, or 2.5 hours, they said.
The same applies to vigorous aerobic exercise, such as spinning or aerobics classes, where women need just 57 minutes compared to 100 minutes for men to achieve the same 19 percent reduction in the risk of death.
Women who participated in strength training saw a 30 percent lower risk of heart-related deaths, compared with 11 percent of men, according to findings published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Researchers speculate that this could be due to differences in anatomy and physiology, with women requiring more effort to perform the same level of exercise as men.
Men, for example, generally have greater lung capacity, larger hearts, more lean body mass, and a higher proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers (which generate high levels of strength and power) than women.
They found that women made even greater gains if they performed more than 2.5 hours per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, or two or more sessions per week of muscle-strengthening activities.
Co-author Dr Susan Cheng said: “Even a limited amount of regular exercise can provide significant benefit, and it turns out this is especially true for women.”
“Taking regular time to exercise, even if it’s just 20 or 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a few times a week, can offer many more benefits than you might think.”