Redefining Workout Standards: Women Achieve More With Less Exercise, Says New Cedars-Sinai Study

A study from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai has found that women require less exercise than men to achieve greater cardiovascular benefits. Gender-specific exercise guidelines may need to be revised.


Women Achieve Greater Cardiovascular Benefits with Less Exercise

A study conducted by the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai reveals that women can achieve greater cardiovascular benefits with less exercise compared to men. The study analyzed data from over 400,000 U.S. adults and found that women have a 24% reduction in mortality risk with less physical activity, while men have a reduction of 15%. These findings challenge traditional exercise recommendations and highlight the importance of gender-specific guidelines.

Dr. Martha Gulati, the director of Preventive Cardiology in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and co-lead author of the study, emphasizes the significance of the results. She mentions that women historically lag behind men in engaging in meaningful exercise, but this study demonstrates that women can gain more benefits from each minute of moderate to vigorous activity compared to men. The study hopes to encourage women to prioritize exercise for their overall health.

Gender Gap in Exercise Benefits

The research team analyzed data taken from the National Health Interview Survey database, which included 412,413 U.S. adults. By examining leisure-time physical activity, the investigators explored the gender-specific outcomes of frequency, duration, intensity, and type of physical activity.

The study's senior author, Dr. Susan Cheng, the director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging at Cedars-Sinai, highlights that mortality risk was lower for both men and women who engaged in regular physical activity. However, women experienced a 24% reduction in mortality risk, while men had a 15% reduction. These results indicate that women can achieve significant cardiovascular gains with less exercise compared to men.

Optimal Exercise Intensity for Women

The study also examined the optimal exercise intensity for women in terms of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. For aerobic exercise such as brisk walking or cycling, men reached their maximal survival benefit by doing this level of exercise for approximately five hours per week. In contrast, women achieved the same degree of survival benefit with just under 2 ½ hours per week.

Similarly, for muscle-strengthening activities like weightlifting or core body exercises, men gained maximum benefit from three sessions per week, while women gained the same amount of benefit from about one session per week. The findings suggest that women can achieve optimal cardiovascular gains with shorter durations and less frequent exercise sessions.