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News Alert: Men and Women Are Different, Exercise Wise Too

Physiologically speaking, women and men are different – no real news flash there, but these differences even affect how we exercise and they haven't been studied for very long. Like most scientific studies, exercise studies were performed on men and the researchers assumed the results would cross gender line. About 15 years ago researchers began to study the female body in motion (FYI: Title IX passed over 35 years ago).

Here are a few of the differences they have found so far.

If you think of the calorie deficit created by exercise, it is similar to starvation. From an evolutionary perspective, exercise creates a physiological survival mode in women's bodies. The female metabolism slows down to maintain the ability to bear children in case of a famine.

The differences don't end there, so read more.

Weight Loss:
The evolutionary response to loss of calories explains why women have a more difficult time than men losing weight – just think of the Biggest Loser and the large amount of weekly pounds that men dropped. (Yay for this season's winner Ali, the first woman to ever win the contest). To lose weight women have to work harder.

Exercise for Weight Loss:
To efficiently and effectively use exercise as a weight loss tool women need to incorporate interval training since changes in pace and intensity force the body to work harder and burn more calories. Cross training is another way to kick exercise into high gear. The constant and continual mixture of disciplines confuses the body, making it hard to adapt to the variety of movement forms and ultimately burning more calories.

Lung Capacity
Women have smaller lungs than men and this size difference can inhibit women's tolerance for exercise and aerobic conditioning. Side by side, a man and a woman may be working out at the same level, but breathing may be more difficult for the women making the work feel even harder.

The female hormone estrogen is a major player in determining what fuels the body during exercise – fat versus carbs. Research also indicates that estrogen may fuel the competitive drive in women, seriously changing what it means to run like a girl.


Join The Conversation
Irritated-man Irritated-man 8 years
Has anyone actually thought about this poor collection of excuses?? 'From an evolutionary perspective, exercise creates a physiological survival mode in women's bodies. The female metabolism slows down to maintain the ability to bear children in case of a famine.' Exactly the same thing happens to men. Women may generally have smaller lungs; but women are generally smaller than men. Smaller stature-less oxygen required by muscles. If there is a difference, it is psychological. Women often see food emotionally; you think eating less chocolate is a difficult thing to do. It isn't. Perhaps if the above posters put as much effort into dieting and exercise as they do into making excuses they'd lose more weight??
telane telane 9 years
Totally not fair, I agree....but I still would take any/all of it over having to walk around with (not to mention look at) a p@n*s all the time! haha
LeLeBabii5 LeLeBabii5 9 years
it most definitely is NOT fair- especially considering I have been absolutely positively 100% certain for forever really, that I do NOT want to have children (ppl always tell me I'll change my mind which irritates me, but thats besides the point). So I'm stuck working harder due to kids I'll never have...frustrating. oh well!
Kyko Kyko 9 years
So if I tend to gain weight around my middle, should I be doing longer but less intense ways of exercise so my body doesn't go into "clingy" mode? I feel like a cortisol pumping machine.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
Of course there's a difference between male and female athletes...but it doesn't make a hill of beans of difference if you never work out. My husband is the biggest couch potato ever and I can beat him in every area of fitness...I'm faster, have more endurance, am more flexible, and my strength is about the same as his. But it does kinda suck that my husband could probably get in shape pretty quickly as opposed to if he were a woman.
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 9 years
It is not discouraging :) Woman have the biological tendancy and RIGHT to be slightly more chubby then their male counterparts. :) I don't mind that ;)
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Discouraging but what can you do?
natshea natshea 9 years
How come society expected females to be so beautiful and slim when its so hard for us? Yet in the animal kingdom, the males are always the brightly colored beautiful animals and the females are the dull colors in the background. Things are so reversed with the human species.
lawyerjenn lawyerjenn 9 years
I do think, though, that for a guy to be really cut, he's going to have to work as hard (or harder) than a girl. He might be healthy enough and lose that extra 20 pounds but he's not going to have a six pack unless he busts his butt. My husband and I run together. In the last two-three years he's started really ramping it up. I've done a total of six marathon whilst he's done 28. So for us, it's easy to see why he is more cut. But he's way beyond the average joe. And the reality is that most of us demand perfection from ourselves and our bodies. Most dudes are happy and proud of themselves if they don't eat pizza two nights per week and try to hit the gym three times. They aren't really coming down on themselves for their little love handles...
carhornsinapril carhornsinapril 9 years
interesting, especially the part about lung capacity; i always assumed it was having asthma as a kid that made it rougher on me. i'm very lucky, though; i've always had an easy time losing weight. my fiance and i are the opposite of normal, he has to work a lot harder than i do to lose pounds!
kia kia 9 years
I get irritated working out with my husband for these reasons. My endurance is a lot better and I work out more, but when we do small workouts we are at even abilities. He wonders why I am not kicking his butt all over the show from the start.
FoxyJo FoxyJo 9 years
This is why I used to hate working out with my boyfriend...his cardio consisted of a 5-10min warm up on the stationary bike! I would LOVE if I could get away with that and not gain weight!! IN MY DREAMS!! ~JO~
Geisha-Runner Geisha-Runner 9 years
That's really interesting! And totally unfair all at the same time! There's a saying that I feel fits perfectly: Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them.
kraken kraken 9 years
Still, an athletic female trumps a couch potato male. We analyzed lung capacities in phys ed class a couple of days ago, along with other basic fitness tests (pushups, situps, resting heart rate, 12-minute distance run test, heart rate during exercise, length of recovery time, flexibility, etc. ad nauseatum) and I scored considerably higher than the boys in my class... not to boast, but just want to make a point that even though women have to work harder to get the same results, it doesn't mean you're doomed.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
Nancita, I agree with you totally. :-)
Peggasus Peggasus 9 years
I totally understand the lung capacity thing. Two summers ago we (me, husband, two sons) went hiking up to about 12,000 ft. in Colorado, and, though I was the one who exercised four times a week and in good shape, they just climbed up that mountain like it was nothing. My muscles were fine, mind you, it was the breathing that got me. I was pissed.
cvandoorn cvandoorn 9 years
That explains why my bf can lose 5 lbs in one week just by eating less and working out more. For me, losing those 5 lbs took 3 months. NOT FAIR AT ALL.
nancita nancita 9 years
This is fascinating. I don't really get mad about stuff like this, since that's just biology for ya, but it does help explain a lot of things about how men and women exercise differently. It's reassuring really!
HappyKate HappyKate 9 years
sundaygreen sundaygreen 9 years
at least we're prettier :^)
imLissy imLissy 9 years
boys suck
missyd missyd 9 years
doesn't surprise me. women got the shi**y end of the stick in alot of areas. Hello childbearing, menstruation, etc
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
No it isn't fair at all
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
It's no fair!!!
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