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Do men or women benefit more from exercise? The answer may surprise you

A man and woman laughing after a workout
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Exercise is beneficial for everyone in some way. Numerous studies have shown that physical activity can positively impact cardiovascular health, muscle strength and tone, mental well-being, and overall quality of life.

However, new research suggests that women may benefit more from physical activity than men, especially in terms of reducing cardiovascular and all-cause mortality risk.

According to a 2024 National Institutes of Health-supported study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, women who exercise regularly have a 24% lower risk of early death. The men in the study also experienced a reduced risk of early death, but the decrease was smaller at 18%.

The study analyzed survey data collected from 412,423 adults (55% female) between 1997 and 2019.

Women vs. men: What the research shows

In addition to a lower risk of early death, the study also revealed that women who regularly exercised experienced lower rates of cardiovascular disease compared to men. Around 36% of women had a reduced risk of fatal heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events, while men had a 14% reduced risk.

Women saw similar benefits to men in a shorter time. For moderate aerobic exercise, they reached an 18% reduced risk threshold in less than 2.5 hours per week, compared to 300 minutes for men. This trend continued at various exercise intensities, including vigorous activity and strength training.

So, what do these results tell us?

Hitting the gym, even for shorter amounts of time, can still seriously boost your health. We’re talking about a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and even checking out early — and who wouldn’t want that?

“Even a limited amount of regular exercise can provide a major benefit, and it turns out this is especially true for women,” Susan Cheng, M.D., a cardiologist and the Erika J. Glazer Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health and Population Science in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles, said in a statement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average adult should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of strength training per week to maintain good health. This means you could take a brisk 30-minute walk each day for a week, lift weights twice a week, and still meet the recommended exercise guidelines.

“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 (NHLBI) added. “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.”

Remember, every workout counts, and getting up and moving is a win-win for your well-being. So keep it up, guys! Every step, every rep, every push-up is bringing you closer to a stronger, healthier you.

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Tabitha Britt
Freelance Writer
Tabitha Britt is a freelance writer, editor, SEO & content strategist.
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