New Study Finds Women Can Sustain Exercise for Longer than Men

New Study Finds Women Can Sustain Exercise for Longer than Men

If you’re looking for some bragging rights at the gym, consider this: Women can sustain exercise for longer than men before tiring, according to a new study.

So while you might not be able to out-bench press your spouse, if you’re both asked to “perform a contraction at 100% of our maximum strength and sustain it as long as we can, [you should] be able to outperform him,” study author Sandra Hunter, Ph.D., associated professor of exercise science at Marquette University told Health.

For the finding, Hunter reviewed the current knowledge on the sex differences in “fatigability,” or the scientific term for how long a task can be sustained before tiring.

In particular, research as shown that women retain more strength in their legs after running or cycling for long periods, or that they are better able to perform an isometric hold than men at the same percentage of maximum strength. (A past study found, for example, that an average male marathoner runners are more likely to slow their pace toward the end of the race than females, perhaps because males are more likely to “hit the wall,” and because males generally use more carb stores than women while running.)

man-vs-woman-sustain-exercise-run-outdoors

But Hunter also notes that because women have rarely been included in fatigability studies, there’s a significant knowledge gap in the space — meaning there’s also a knowledge gap when it comes to optimal strategies for training and rehabilitation in both men and women.

 

“The bottom line of training or rehab is that you have to fatigue a muscle in order to increase its strength,” Hunter told Health. “So if men and women fatigue differently, they should be treated differently” — particularly during rehab after injuries or because of health conditions such as osteoarthritis.

However, while it’s tempting, Hunter notes, to say this means women are the “tougher” sex, the reality is “the best woman probably won’t ever be able to outrun the best man, simply because of physiological differences,” Hunter says. “But for many years those differences have been overestimated because we haven’t had the best genetic pool of women competing against the best genetic pool of men.”

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Women’s Fitness Over the Decades

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