Women’s Exceptional Health Gains from Exercise – Findings from a NIH Supported Study

A recent observational study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shed light on a surprising revelation: women may realize more health benefits from regular exercise compared to men, even when engaging in the same level of physical activity. The findings underscore the importance of exercise for overall health and longevity, particularly for women who may gain more from incorporating regular physical activity into their lifestyles.

The study, which examined the association between exercise and premature death, revealed that despite women and men receiving equal amounts of physical activity, women exhibited a lower risk of premature death. This disparity in outcomes suggests that the health advantages of exercise may be more pronounced for women, highlighting the crucial role of regular physical activity in promoting longevity and well-being.

Dr. Cheng, one of the researchers involved in the study, emphasized the significance of even minimal amounts of exercise in conferring substantial health benefits, particularly for women. He noted that dedicating just 20-30 minutes to vigorous exercise a few times per week can yield significant rewards, underscoring the importance of prioritizing physical activity in daily life.

While the study underscores the myriad health benefits of exercise for both genders, it also reveals a concerning trend: many individuals, particularly women, fail to meet the recommended guidelines for weekly aerobic and strength training exercises. Only 33% of women and 43% of men in the study met the standard for weekly aerobic exercise, while even fewer engaged in weekly strength training sessions.

Dr. Eric J. Shiroma, a program director at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), emphasized the importance of tailoring exercise regimens to individual needs and goals, recognizing that physical activity requirements may vary based on factors such as age, health status, and schedule. He reiterated the irrefutable value of any type of exercise in promoting overall health and well-being.

The study also delved into the physiological differences between men and women that may contribute to variations in exercise outcomes. Factors such as anatomical variations, differences in lung capacity, heart size, lean body mass, and muscle fiber composition may influence how individuals respond to exercise and subsequently reap health rewards.

In light of these findings, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults engage in at least 2.5-5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous exercise each week, along with strength-based activities on two or more days per week. By adhering to these guidelines and incorporating regular exercise into daily routines, individuals can enhance their overall health and well-being, regardless of gender.

The research, supported by NHLBI grants, underscores the NIH’s commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and promoting public health initiatives. As the global leader in heart, lung, and blood disease research, NHLBI continues to spearhead efforts to improve health outcomes and save lives through groundbreaking research and innovative interventions.