Studies

A New Study Suggests Women Are “Naturally More Fit” Than Men

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Photograph by iStock/vadimguzhva.

In the classic Amanda Bynes movie She’s the Man (raise your hand if this was the sleepover movie at your middle school), the coach turns down Bynes’ character’s request to join the boys soccer team with the dismissive statement: “Girls aren’t as fast as boys or as strong or as athletic. This is not me talking; this is scientific fact.”

Well, coach, we’ve got some news for you: According to a new study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism by researchers at the University of Waterloo, young women may actually have some biological advantages over young men.

Before you challenge your boyfriend to a bench-pressing competition, though, you should know that the study wasn’t focused on who has bigger muscles or can run faster. Rather, the study looked at how 18 young, healthy people (nine men and nine women) of similar ages (around their 20s) and aerobic fitness levels compared when it comes to how their bodies use oxygen during exercise on a treadmill. And, as you may have guessed, the young women were able to process the oxygen faster — as in, around 30 percent faster — than the men.

While processing oxygen may not sound as sexy as deadlifting double your body weight, it’s still an important indicator of a person’s overall fitness.

“People that present a faster oxygen uptake are likely to be more fit than someone who take too long to increase the oxygen uptake when they start to exercise,” explains study co-author Thomas Beltrame. “The significance is that faster increase in oxygen uptake means less reliance on anaerobic energy sources.”

Why is faster oxygen uptake worth bragging about? Well, it basically means that the female study participants’ aerobic systems in the study adapted more quickly to exercise, and therefore were less likely to get a build up of molecules that lead to muscle fatigue.

“Having a faster increase in aerobic energy supply at the start of exercise means that the transition to exercise will be less stressful,” says Beltrame.

So what, exactly, are we to take away from this? The researchers hope that it helps inform future studies — especially since it’s long been assumed that men are generally fitter than women.

“Further studies might use this information to propose sex-specific interventions over the aerobic system such as training programs, disease treatment or medication,” says Beltrame.

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