When it comes to physical aptitude, men seem to have the natural advantage. But there is one important measure of fitness where women triumph, according to a recent study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
Lead by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, nine women and nine men, aged 18-30 and of similar BMI’s were tested to compare different measures of fitness between the sexes. After a short walk on the treadmill, they were directed to gradually increase the speed and incline until they reached 80% of their maximum heart rate. Face masks were used to measure the amount of oxygen each individual used and the amount of carbon dioxide produced.
“The specific measurement we did in this study was to look at how quickly oxygen uptake increases when you go from a rest to exercise transition,” says study author Richard Hughson. “If people are unfit, they adapt more slowly to exercise, they perceive it as being a greater load and therefore they back off and they become progressively less fit.”
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Oxygen uptake is an effective indicator of overall physical fitness, Hughson says, and according to this study it's an area in which women come out on top. While it took men 42 seconds to adjust to exercise, it took women roughly 30 seconds. That’s about 30% faster, putting women at a clear advantage when it comes to physical efficiency. The study also found that female athletes were better at transporting oxygen to tissues throughout their bodies, and that their tissues were better at using the extra oxygen.
While men may take the cake for strength and speed, they can’t claim to be universally fitter, Hughson says.
“Fitness can be defined by that maximal aerobic power, or it can be defined by some other indicators,” he says. “If you monitor how quickly a person adapts to an exercise level, it really is an indication of fitness and health.”
Lead author, Thomas Beltrame, says the team will be broadening their research to examine elite athletes, not just recreational exercises.
“In the future,” Beltrame told Time, “Studies are needed to determine if our results from recreationally active men and women, who were matched for fitness, will also apply to the fittest women compared to the fittest men.”
How's that for girl power?!
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