Women Can Exercise Less Often Than Men and Still Reap Greater Health Benefits


Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases. While it is commonly known that exercise is beneficial for both men and women, a recent study suggests that women may actually see greater health benefits from exercising regularly compared to men. This groundbreaking research challenges the conventional belief that men need more exercise to achieve the same results. In this article, we will delve into the findings of the study, explore the reasons behind this gender difference, and provide practical tips for incorporating exercise into your routine.

Women Can Exercise Less Often Than Men and Still Reap Greater Health Benefits
Women Can Exercise Less Often Than Men and Still Reap Greater Health Benefits

The Study: Women Reap Greater Health Benefits from Exercise

According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, women who engaged in 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week had a 24% lower risk of dying compared to women who didn’t exercise regularly within the same timeframe. In contrast, men who exercised for the same duration had only a 15% lower likelihood of mortality. The study analyzed data from over 400,000 adults in the United States spanning from 1997 to 2017, with exercise habits self-reported by the participants.

The research also revealed that women were able to achieve similar health benefits with less exercise compared to men. Men who engaged in approximately five hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week reduced their risk of dying by 18%, whereas women achieved the same reduction in mortality risk with just 2.5 hours of exercise. These findings are significant and challenge the notion that men require more exercise to achieve optimal health outcomes.

Dr. Beteal Ashinne, a non-invasive cardiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, commented on its implications, stating, “I think what this study shows is that there is something to it, and this study helps open up doors for very specific research to understand why there is a difference.”

Potential Reasons for the Gender Difference

The study did not definitively determine why women may experience greater health benefits from exercise than men. However, researchers speculate that anatomical differences between men and women may play a role. Men, on average, have proportionately larger hearts, wider lung airways, greater lung diffusion capacity, and larger muscle fibers than women. These physiological variations could contribute to the differing responses to exercise and its impact on health outcomes.

Dr. Martha Gulati, the director of preventive cardiology at Cedars-Sinai’s Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles, highlights the significance of the study’s findings, stating, “Women got the same benefit at lower levels of physical activity.” This suggests that women may be able to achieve optimal health outcomes with less exercise, making it more accessible and feasible for them to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.

The Importance of  for Heart Health

Regardless of gender, regular exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Nadish Garg, a cardiologist at Memorial Hermann, emphasizes that physical activity helps to reduce cardiovascular mortality, period. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that Americans engage in at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate physical activity per week or 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous activity. This can include a combination of aerobic exercises like running, biking, dancing, or swimming, as well as strength-training exercises such as weight-lifting, push-ups, and bodyweight squats.

Dr. Garg advises individuals to choose exercises that they enjoy and will reasonably increase their heart rate. By finding activities that are enjoyable, individuals are more likely to sustain their exercise routine in the long term. It’s not necessary to spend hours on a treadmill; any activity that increases the heart rate can provide significant health benefits.

Benefits of Exercise Beyond Mortality Risk Reduction

The study not only examined mortality risk but also explored the impact of exercise on specific health outcomes. Women who exercised regularly had a 36% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular issues such as heart attacks or strokes, while men who exercised regularly had a 14% lower risk. These findings highlight the preventive effect of exercise on heart health, particularly for women.

Regular exercise has numerous additional benefits beyond reducing mortality risk and improving cardiovascular health. It can help manage weight, improve mental health, boost energy levels, enhance sleep quality, strengthen muscles and bones, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Incorporating exercise into your routine can lead to an overall improvement in well-being and quality of life.

Practical Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Your Routine

With the understanding that exercise is vital for optimal health, here are some practical tips to help you incorporate physical activity into your daily routine:

  1. Find activities you enjoy: Engaging in activities you find enjoyable increases the likelihood of sticking to your exercise routine. Whether it’s dancing, hiking, cycling, or swimming, choose activities that make you feel good and keep you motivated to continue.
  2. Set realistic goals: Start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. This approach will help you build momentum and avoid burnout.
  3. Mix it up: Incorporate a variety of exercises into your routine to keep things interesting and target different muscle groups. This can include aerobic exercises like walking or jogging, strength training, and flexibility exercises such as yoga or pilates.
  4. Schedule exercise as part of your day: Treat exercise as an important appointment in your daily schedule. Set aside dedicated time for physical activity, just as you would for any other commitment.
  5. Make it a social activity: Exercise with friends or family members to make it a more enjoyable and social experience. Join a fitness class, sports team, or walking group to meet like-minded individuals who share your fitness goals.
  6. Take advantage of technology: Use fitness apps or wearable devices to track your progress, set goals, and stay motivated. These tools can provide valuable insights into your activity levels and help you stay accountable.
  7. Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels during and after exercise. If you experience pain or discomfort, modify your activities or seek guidance from a healthcare professional.
  8. Stay consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to reaping the benefits of exercise. Aim for regular physical activity throughout the week rather than sporadic intense workouts. Remember that even short bursts of activity can be beneficial.


The findings of the recent study highlight that women can exercise less often than men and still experience greater health benefits. These results challenge the traditional belief that men require more exercise to achieve optimal health outcomes. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good heart health, reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and improving overall well-being. By finding activities you enjoy, setting realistic goals, and making exercise a consistent part of your routine, you can reap the numerous benefits of physical activity. Remember, it’s never too late to start incorporating exercise into your life and prioritizing your health.

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