Women may benefit from exercise more than men do, study says

Women likely have more respiratory, metabolic and strength demands, which yields greater results

Women may benefit more from exercise than men do, according to a 2024 observational study supported by the National Institutes of Health. The fact that women live longer than men is an old adage, but it’s one founded in science.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the life expectancy of men in 2021 was 73.5 years, and 79.3 years for women. Female life expectancy rose from a 5.1-year advantage over men in 2019 to 5.8 years in 2022.

Now, researchers say they have reason to believe exercise could be a factor.

“Even a limited amount of regular exercise can provide a major benefit, and it turns out this is especially true for women,” researcher Dr. Susan Cheng told theNIH. “Taking some regular time out for exercise, even if it’s just 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise a few times each week, can offer a lot more gain than they may realize.”

The researchers said multiple factors might account for the difference in exercise outcomes, including anatomy and physiology. For instance, women may face additional respiratory, metabolic and strength demands to perform the same exercises as men, who often naturally have more lung capacity, larger hearts and more lean body mass.

According to the study, women derived greater gain in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk reduction from equivalent physical activity.

“This study emphasizes that there is no singular approach for exercise,” Eric J. Shiroma, Sc.D., a program director in the clinical applications and prevention branch at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, told the NIH. “A person’s physical activity needs and goals may change based on their age, health status, and schedule — but the value of any type of exercise is irrefutable.”