Women may need less exercise than men to live longer, new study finds

“For years, we’ve used men as the standard,” researchers said of the new findings.

Fitness, Black women's health and wellness, Black men's health and wellness, health study, theGrio.com
A new study found that women might live longer getting less exercise than men. (Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

Getting physical activity, even if just taking a few minutes to do some household chores, is really good for women. 

According to a new study by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, women may achieve greater longevity results by getting half as much exercise or physical activity as men. 

Speaking about the study to Time magazine, study co-author Dr. Martha Gulati, director of preventive cardiology at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, said, “For me, the news to women is: a little goes a long way.” 

The study looked at the self-reported exercise habits of over 400,000 U.S.-based adults who took the National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2017; it found that men who got around 300 minutes of “aerobic exercise” weekly had an 18% lower risk of dying compared to inactive men. However, women who got only around 140 minutes of weekly exercise saw an equivalent benefit, while the risk of death was 24% lower for those who got about 300 minutes of movement per week. 

Apparently, roughly 40,000 participants in the study died during the study period. Additionally, researchers found that for both men and women, increased longevity would plateau beyond 300 minutes of weekly exercise.

This study only adds to the common understanding that physical activity is something we all can benefit from. It also provides further evidence of why physicians should work to tailor their treatments to each patient instead of basing evaluations on standards that may not apply to individuals physiologically. 

“For years, we’ve used men as the standard,” Gulati told Time magazine. However, she added, “Women are not just small men.” 

Presently, according to the American Heart Association, the recommendation for all U.S. adults is to get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. Gulati said her study suggests women may need to follow this.

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This study was released during American Heart Month, in an era when heart disease is the No. 1 threat to women’s health, and Black women, in particular. In many cases, this can be mitigated by maintaining an active lifestyle.

Following this study, physicians unilaterally agree it’s essential for adults to get moving. Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, who did not have a hand in the study but spoke to CNN, said, “If I said to a patient, ‘Hey, I have a medicine that you can take every day that will not only help to prevent heart disease, heart attacks, cancer, memory loss, dementia, but it will improve your mood,’ people would be going nuts for it. And the truth is, it exists. It’s just not in a pill form – it’s sweat equity.”

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