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Women may gain health benefits of exercise more efficiently than men

According to a study, men need about five hours of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or cycling, to maximize their longevity.
Women may gain health benefits of exercise more efficiently than men
Posted at 7:05 PM, Feb 19, 2024

Science is clear: We all need to move our bodies to improve our health. But a new study finds women can move less than men to live longer.

"Women get more out of every minute of physical activity than men," said Dr. Martha Gulati, the director of preventive cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The study from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai analyzed health data from the National Institutes of Health for more than 400,000 adults over two decades.

Researchers found physically active women were 24% less likely to die early compared to women who didn't exercise, while men were 15% less likely. Women also had a "36% reduced risk for a fatal heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event — while men had a 14% reduced risk."

Dr. Gulati, who co-authored the study, says women's physiology means they can exercise less often than men while better improving their heart health.

"Women actually have more blood flow to their muscles," said Dr. Gulati, adding that "perhaps by doing smaller amounts of activity, that entire vascular response may ultimately translate into improved cardiac function."

According to the study, men need about five hours  per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or cycling, to maximize their longevity.

But women get the same benefits exercising just 2.5 hours per week.

"Men getting 300 minutes a week was equivalent to a woman getting 140 minutes per week," said Gulati.

The research team studied moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity, from cycling to weightlifting and calisthenics, but didn't look at regular daily movement, like walking or gardening. Dr. Gulati says those activities also have long-term perks, and she hopes the study leads to better national exercise guidelines for men and women.

 "Hopefully that will translate into reducing cardiac events as well as living longer, healthier lives," she said.

The current physical activity guidelines for Americans from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion say adults, both men and women, need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week along with 2 days of muscle-strengthening exercises to maintain or improve their health.

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