Women Are Able to Exercise Less and Benefit More

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Mar 04, 2024

There is no doubt that exercising has many benefits for the body, both in the present moment and well into the future.

However, a new study has found that while exercising is valuable for all people, women are more likely to see those benefits now and in the long run, even while exercising less than men do.

The JACC Paper That’s Making Headlines

Earlier this month, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) published a study conducted by the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai entitled, “Sex Differences in Association of Physical Activity With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality.”

Woman lifting weights at the gym

Source: Freepik

The paper is already making headlines as it announced that, according to extensive research, women gain more benefits than men with less exercise, especially when it comes to heart health

Breaking Down the Study

The incredibly extensive study collected data from 400,000 US adults between the ages of 27 and 61 from 1997 to 2019. Throughout those 22 years, researchers realized women were 24% less likely to die early if they exercised for at least 150 minutes per week than those women who exercised for less than 150 minutes. 

Elderly man receiving oxygen from doctors in a hospital

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On the other hand, men who exercised for at least 150 minutes per week were only 15% less likely to die early than those who didn’t reach that 150 minute mark. Additionally, men were only 14% less likely to experience a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack if they exercised, whereas women were 36% less likely if they exercised.

Men Need to Work Out for at Least 300 Minutes Per Week to See a Difference

The study also explained that while women saw a significant reduction in the risk of death after exercising for only 140 minutes per week, men needed more than twice that to see the same reduction. 

Man running on the treadmill in a gym

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In fact, there was only a significant decrease in risk of death if men worked out for more than 300 minutes every week. 

From Strength Training to Moderate Aerobic Activity, Women Simply Need Less Than Men

The study made sure to pay attention to not only the time participants spent exercising, but also the type of workouts they opted for. 

Woman looking back at the camera while walking her dog in a park

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And they noted that from weight lifting to aerobics, core exercises, and even simply walking in the park, women needed far less than men to reap the benefits. Men typically needed at least 5 hours of brisk walking and 3 strength-training sessions per week, whereas women saw the same results with only 2.5 hours of walking and 1 weekly session in the gym.

Women Have “More to Gain” from Exercise

With this information, it became exceptionally clear to the study’s authors that women see better results on their overall health by working out far less than men. 

Doctor is holding a model heart, signifying heart health

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As Dr. Susan Cheng, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, explained, “For a given amount of time and effort put into exercise, women had more to gain than men.”


Women’s Bodies Function Differently Than Men’s

Another interesting aspect of other studies conducted over the past few years is that women not only had more to gain in regard to heart health and longevity, but also in visible and usable muscles.

Instagram photo by @GymShark of a woman showing off her muscles

Source: @GymShark/Instagram

Dr. Daniel Atkinson told Healthline, “Women tend to have proportionately lower lean muscle mass and strength than men. So, as a result, they may experience greater relative improvements in strength and circulation in response to exercise, leading to more efficient bodily changes.”


Neither Men Nor Women Experienced Less Risk of Death with More than 300 Minutes of Exercise

Another interesting finding within the study was that no participants, either male or female, were able to reduce their risk of death by any cause more significantly with more than 300 minutes of exercise every week. 

Woman checking her watch while working out at the gym

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However, women were able to decrease their risk by climbing from 140 minutes per week to 300 minutes per week. Once again, proving that every minute spent working out means more for women’s bodies than it does for men’s.


This Study Proves Diet and Exercise Plans Need to Be Specifically Tailored to Gender

Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, responded to the study, saying, “It turns out that women are not just little men, but rather, they have a completely different physiology, which is hinted at by the both the muscle studies and this study.”

Doctor goes over paperwork with a woman patient

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And continued, “We’re starting to learn that very personalized medicine, based on (sex) and size and ethnicity and all these other things are starting to become much more important and relevant.”


Researchers Hope This Information Will Encourage Women to Work Out

With this new information, researchers are hoping doctors can offer more specific training and diet regimens to people, depending on their gender. But they are also optimistic that it will encourage women to exercise more as well. 

Mom is exercising at home with her young daughter

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Dr. Anita Dann Friedman, co-lead author on the study, told the press, “The beauty of this study is learning that women can get more out of each minute of moderate to vigorous activity than men do. It’s an incentivizing notion that we hope women will take to heart.”


The Long Term Benefits of Exercising Are Significant

What they really want women to understand is that with just 140 minutes per week of moderate exercise, they won’t just see more muscle gains than men doing the same amount, but they will also live longer, healthier lives. 

Older woman sitting on a bed in a hospital gown next to her wheelchair

Source: Freepik

Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease is extremely important, but just two hours of exercise every week will also ensure women can walk, run, play, and truly enjoy their lives well into their later years. 


Exercise Truly Is Medicine

Dr. Freeman said it plainly when he told CNN, “If I said to a patient, ‘Hey, I have a medicine that you can take every day that will not only help to prevent heart disease, heart attacks, cancer, memory loss, dementia, but it will improve your mood,’ people would be going nuts for it. And the truth is, it exists. It’s just not in a pill form – it’s sweat equity.”

Woman doing yoga on a pink mat in a field on a sunny day

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The bottom line is that exercise is important for all people who want to live a healthy active life, but for women, it’s even easier than men to reach that goal.