A New Study Shows Greater Reduced Risks of Death for Exercising Women Compared to Men

Whether it’s brisk walking, a spinning class, or strength training – a new analysis of data from over 400,000 U.S. adults supports that women who exercise regularly may lower their risk of premature death significantly more than men who exercise similar amounts. The findings show women may need less time exercising to achieve similar major health gains as men.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that over two decades, women who exercised were 24% less likely to die prematurely from any cause compared to women who were inactive. For men, regular exercise correlated with only a 15% reduced risk of death.

The disparity was similar for fatal cardiovascular events – exercising women saw a 36% reduced risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke while men saw just a 14% reduced risk.

“We hope this study will help everyone, especially women, understand they are poised to gain tremendous benefits from exercise,” said lead researcher Dr. Susan Cheng of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai.

The findings held true across all exercise types examined – moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking, vigorous exercise like high-intensity interval training, and strength training.

At 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity activity per week, exercising women and men reduced their risk of premature death by 24% and 18% respectively. Around 2 hours of vigorous activity correlated to similar risk reductions.

But women achieved the same benefits in significantly less time. They matched men’s 18% death risk reduction at half the weekly minutes – just 140 minutes (under 2.5 hours) of moderate exercise. For vigorous exercise, women needed just 57 minutes per week vs. 110 for men to produce a 19% lower risk.

The story was similar for strength training – women achieved almost double the death risk reduction as men (19% vs. 11%) from strength-based exercises. Strength training also gave women a 30% reduced risk of cardiovascular death, triple the benefit seen in men.

“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,” noted Dr. Cheng.

But as substantial as the benefits were, only 33% of women and 43% of men in the study met the standard guidelines for weekly aerobic activity. For strength training, the proportions were just 20% and 28% respectively.

“This study emphasizes that there is no singular approach for exercise,” said Eric J. Shiroma, a program director at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “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.”

The reasons women may gain more from exercise than men are still being elucidated. One theory is variations in anatomy and physiology – women often have smaller hearts, lungs, more body fat, and less muscle mass than men. As a result they may accrue added cardiovascular and metabolic benefits by conducting the same physical movements.

Overall this large observational data offers compelling evidence that women can achieve significant health payoffs from regular aerobic and strength training physical activity. While men benefit too, women may be able to realize similar gains in less time – providing extra motivation for prioritizing regular exercise.

The key is finding enjoyable activities you’ll stick to long-term. As little as 20-30 minutes per session, a few times weekly, can contribute majorly to living a longer, healthier life.

Ref: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/women-may-realize-health-benefits-regular-exercise-more-men