Can Women Get the Benefits of Exercise with Less Effort Than Men?

Benefits of exercise for women

For decades, the prevailing medical wisdom held that women and men benefit equally from exercise when it comes to heart health. But groundbreaking new research from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute upends this long-held assumption in the most comprehensive study of its kind, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Scientists discovered a striking gender gap. As their research shows, women garner greater cardiovascular protections through exercise than men, even when they do lower intensity workouts. These findings suggest women may require less intense exertion than previously thought to boost heart health.

This revelation flips the script on the idea that men and women benefit equally from the same amount of physical activity. The study reveals that women’s hearts respond more favorably to exercise, allowing them to achieve superior cardiovascular gains while potentially working less strenuously than men to see similar improvements.

So, while men may need to push themselves harder during workouts to see substantial benefits, women can potentially reach their fitness goals with a comparatively more moderate approach. This finding opens exciting possibilities for tailoring exercise recommendations and optimizing heart health outcomes across genders. How did the researchers reach this conclusion?

Unveiling the Gender Gap

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 400,000 American adults, looking specifically at their leisure-time physical activity from 1997 to 2019. What they discovered challenges long-held beliefs about exercise and its effects on heart health.

Through their extensive analysis, Drs. Gulati, Cheng, and their team uncovered surprising insights that upend traditional assumptions. Their findings reveal that when it comes to cardiovascular gains from exercise, there’s a significant gender gap that’s been overlooked until now.

Dr. Martha Gulati, who heads Preventive Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai, was excited to share the impactful takeaway from their research. “Our study shows that women actually get more bang for their buck with each minute of moderate to vigorous exercise compared to men,” she explained enthusiastically.

This insight is empowering, especially for women who may have felt frustrated thinking they needed to push themselves just as hard as men to see comparable gains. Dr. Gulati’s findings flip that notion on its head – women can potentially achieve greater cardiovascular benefits without having to be as intense with their workouts.

The revelation opens the door for women to feel encouraged that a moderate exercise regimen can still go a long way towards boosting their heart health. No more feeling like extreme exertion is mandatory to reap meaningful rewards. This fresh perspective has the power to motivate women who found the traditional “exercise more rigorously” advice disheartening.

Tailoring Exercise Recommendations

One of the most eye-opening takeaways from this research is the stark difference in how much exercise men and women need for optimal gains in longevity. The data reveals that while men often require around three hundred minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity to see maximal survival benefits, women can achieve the same boost to lifespan with just 140 minutes.

But it doesn’t stop there. The study findings suggest women’s bodies are remarkably efficient and adaptable when it comes to exercise. Women were shown to continue reaping further cardiovascular rewards by exercising up to three hundred minutes weekly. So not only do they need less exercise time initially for major survival benefits, but women’s hearts can leverage even more activity for compounding health advantages.

This incredible gender gap underscores just how uniquely responsive the female body is to physical activity. While progress has been made, these insights shatter conventional one-size-fits-all exercise prescriptions. Women’s bodies possess an inherent edge that allows them to thrive on what might seem like a more moderate regimen compared to fitness recommendations geared towards men.

Optimizing Exercise Regimens

This discovery of gender-specific exercise responses may change healthcare too. It allows healthcare providers to craft exercise recommendations that are better tailored to the unique physiology of women’s bodies.

For women, the research shows that devoting just two and a half hours per week to moderate or vigorous aerobic activities like brisk walking, jogging, or swimming, or engaging in muscle-strengthening workouts, can make a tremendous difference in heart health.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all exercise advice. With insights like these, doctors can prescribe fitness plans that play to the innate strengths of the female body. A modest time commitment to the right kinds of physical activity has the power to significantly boost cardiovascular function in women.

The key is recognizing these gender differences and optimizing recommendations accordingly. Healthcare providers now have compelling evidence to offer women streamlined, yet impactful exercise guidance that maximizes the efficiency and incredible adaptability of the female body.

Empowering Women Through Knowledge

The researchers hope this eye-opening research will inspire and empower women to make their physical health a priority. However, be aware that it’s an area that needs more study. Human physiology is complex, and individual responses to exercise can vary significantly based on factors such as age, fitness level, and underlying health conditions. Therefore, presenting the findings as universally applicable to all men and women may not be accurate.

So, while there’s still a long way to go, these eye-opening discoveries inspire hope for a future of healthcare that serves the whole human population. Gender-specific studies are vital steppingstones on that journey. But the most important thing, for all genders, is to exercise. It’s the best health prescription there is and it only costs your time.


  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Women Get the Same Exercise Benefits as Men, But with Less Effort. Women Get the Same Exercise Benefits as Men, But with Less Effort. Published February 19, 2024. Accessed February 20, 2024. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/newsroom/women-get-the-same-exercise-benefits-as-men-but-with-less-effort/
  • Nystoriak MA, Bhatnagar A. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Sep 28;5:135. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2018.00135. PMID: 30324108; PMCID: PMC6172294.
  • “Exercise and the Cardiovascular System | Circulation Research.” 03 Jul. 2015, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circresaha.117.305205.
  • “Exercise and cardiac health: physiological and molecular insights – Nature.” 17 Aug. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/s42255-020-0262-1.
  • “Exercise and Mortality in Heart Disease Cohorts: Meta-Analysis to ….” https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2022.02.037.‌

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