Women Get More Health Benefits From Regular Exercise Than Men, New Research Suggests

New research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests women reap greater health benefits from exercise with less effort than men.

The research was conducted by a team from China and the United States, and they analyzed data from 412,413 adults aged 27 to 61 without underlying health issues between 1997 and 2017. By 2019, 39,935 of the participants had died, and 11,670 deaths were due to cardiovascular causes.

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Breaking It Down

The research suggests that cisgender men tend to do more physical activity than cisgender women; however, women don’t have to do as much work to experience the same return on investment, so to speak. Here’s a highlight of some of the findings.

According to the study, 140 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week gave women a 24-percent decreased risk of premature death from any cause compared to inactive women. In comparison, men needed to log five hours of exercise a week, or 300 minutes, to experience the same benefit.

Women’s risk of premature death also continued to decrease when they exercised more than 140 minutes a week, up to 300 minutes a week.

Further, women who exercised were 36 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular events than inactive women, as compared to 14 percent for men who exercised, according to the research.

One big thing: Strength training, specifically, also gave women an edge over men. The research found that women who strength train have 19 percent less chance of dying prematurely, compared to 11 percent for men.

A big caveat: This was an observational study, which means that the study cannot definitively conclude that the changes in mortality were because of exercise. Lifestyle factors like alcohol, tobacco use, and diet also weren’t considered.

Why this matters: Though the CrossFit community is inclined to train more than two-and-a-half or even five hours a week, the average adult does not. 

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control recommends adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week. In 2020, the agency published data saying that only 24.2% of adults 18 and over were hitting that criteria.

Although this is just one study, the sample size is significant and could prove useful in empowering new female leads who reach out to a CrossFit affiliate, or women who experience barriers to working out, as it suggests even a little bit of exercise can go a long way in preventing chronic disease and ultimately premature death.


Hongwei Ji, Martha Gulati, Tzu Yu Huang, Alan C. Kwan, David Ouyang, Joseph E. Ebinger, Kaitlin Casaletto, Kerrie L. Moreau, Hicham Skali, Susan Cheng, Sex Differences in Association of Physical Activity With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 83, Issue 8, 2024, Pages 783-793, ISSN 0735-1097, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2023.12.019.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109723083134)

Featured image: 4 PM production / Shutterstock

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