How Men and Women Respond to Physical Activity

If you’ve spent some time in gyms like Anytime Fitness, you often see men lifting weights and women in fitness classes like yoga and Pilates. Men join bodybuilding competitions, women run marathons. Of course these are merely stereotypes and there are a lot of men who do yoga and run marathons, and women who lift weights and join bodybuilding competitions.

But why is it that men and women seem to have different ideas over what is a good workout? Additionally, when it comes to improving your personal fitness, is there one way that works better for men and another that is more effective for women?

A survey conducted by Weight Watchers found that women tend to speak about nutrition and exercise in terms of “dieting” and “slimming down.”  Men would say, “I need to hit the gym.”

The same survey found that women see exercise as a chore or something they need to do although they don’t necessarily want to do it. Men, on the other hand, tend to view exercise more of a sport or a challenge.

It’s probably no surprise that only 17 percent of women lift weights. Women prefer group classes and cardio machines. In fact, women outnumber men 5:1 in group fitness classes like CrossFit, bootcamp, spin, and yoga.

Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to fitness, here are eight the main differences between men and women’s response to exercise.

1. Men have more muscle mass.

Men are up to 60 percent stronger than women because they have larger muscle fibers. But even though men tend to be stronger, both genders have equal strength for their body types.

2. Women build a bum faster.

Women generally have 67% the amount of muscle mass that men have, with a more significant difference in muscle mass in the upper-body (about 50% of that in men) to muscle mass in lower-body (75%). So if a man and a woman have the same size muscles, it should technically mean they have roughly the same strength. Women have an easier time strengthening their legs stronger or shaping their backside, while men may have to work much harder to get rid of the “chicken leg.”

3. Men take longer to recover.

Because women have lower overall muscle mass compared to men, they are also able to recover faster from intense training than men. Fit women have lower glycogen and ATP rates (energy store) depletion during workouts, so they don’t need as long to recover between sets. Moreover, men can often handle more training volume than women. Since women have less muscle mass, the volume and intensity of their workouts may be slightly less than their male counterpart.

4. Women have more body fat.

The female body is designed to carry more body fat  than men and this is for fertility reasons. Body fat is an essential part of fitness particularly for women.

5. Women burn more fat.

At rest, women burn more glucose (sugar) than men. However, during exercise, women burn fat faster especially with weight training and HIITs. Conversely, men burn more fat at rest and more glucose when working out.

6. Men benefit more from consuming carbs after exercising.

Men burn more glucose during exercise than women so fueling up with carbs post workout may be necessary for guys but not for the ladies. Eating a more balanced meal may be a better option for women.

7. Women can handle higher amounts of carbs than men.

Women have approximately 30% less muscle mass and 2X more body fat than men, which means they (women) have better blood sugar tolerance. The high estrogen levels may be the reason for this as it can stimulate the body to utilize glucose. What this means is that men may benefit from a ketogenic diet, whereas women can usually handle moderate amounts of carbs for metabolic health.

8. Women tend to progress slower on high-intensity programs than men.

Men’s bodies usually respond more positively to an increased exercise intensity or caloric deficit than women, and this may be attributed to hormone differences. Caloric restriction and high intensity workouts in women can affect cortisol which is the stress hormones, leading to a higher likelihood of fat storage.

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