How Do Men and Women React Differently to Exercise?
There is no comparable feeling to that of starting your day with a great workout. You know how it is: you step out of the front door before the sun shows itself on the horizon, you begrudgingly head to the gym for a session, but something odd happens.
Rather than feeling depressed or angry that you decided to leave your warm and cosy bed, you feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement for escaping your comfort zone. By the time you exit the building and head through the parking lot toward your car, you feel like you could conquer the world. Heck, you might even flex your muscles a bit in the reflection of each parked car’s window! Don’t worry — we won’t judge you.
Although many gym enthusiasts chalk this up as a natural reward for performing a difficult task in the face of adversity, science tells us these sensations are related to our brain’s reward system. After going through an intense session, our system floods with “feel-good” chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins.
While this is a pleasurable experience that many fitness enthusiasts long for, how does working out and getting in shape vary between men and women? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, here’s what you should know.
1. Men have an easier time building muscle tissue, but women don’t have to experience and much pain.
Unlike their female counterparts, men are more susceptible to pain and discomfort after their personal fitness session. Ask anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in the gym, and they’ll tell you the same thing: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) can kick the butt of even the strongest person!
For women, DOMS doesn’t have the debilitating and crippling effect that it has for men. Women who are serious about their training regimen may experience mild to medium discomfort for a few days, but that’s about the extent that DOMS plays in their fitness. For males, DOMS can ruin an entire week and cause them to hunch over in pain from menial tasks like moving a box, standing up from a prone position or tying their shoes.
Don’t worry, fellas! There’s a benefit in here for you too! While females may never experience the agony and pain of a workout (did someone say “leg day?”), they’ll never pack on lean muscle mass like a male. This fact is related to a man’s naturally-elevated testosterone levels and hormone production.
A study published in the United States National Library of Medicine found that, on average, men produce 20 times more testosterone than females after puberty. That means, in a general sense, that your beard will be 20-times greater than a female’s! Joking aside, here are the benefits of having elevated testosterone levels related to muscle building and athletic performance:
- Increased strength
- Additional fat burning
- Improved stamina
- Sexual appetite
- Extensive tissue growth
- Optimised protein synthesis
With all these factors at play, it’s no wonder that men have an easier time getting in shape, losing weight and enduring extended workout sessions.
2. Women are more flexible, but men have greater brute strength.
While men and women both have the capacity to be extremely flexible, women, on average, surpass the male population in their ability to bend and contort their bodies. This finding stems from a woman’s ability to regulate oxygen throughout her body while moving through various exercises and stretches.
To paint an analogy, think back to a time when you were trying to stretch past your limits. When you pushed your muscles, ligaments and tendons to their threshold, what happened? For most of us, we winced in pain and recoiled in mild discomfort.
An underlying component of this experience was how our male body is incapable of regulating oxygen as efficiently as a woman’s when experiencing tension and pressure. While this fact still eludes mainstream science, medical professionals believe women have increased pain tolerance for dealing with childbirth.
And it’s easy to see this genetic component in the real world, too. When guys lift heavy weights and strain under an impressive load, we habitually hold our breath until we complete the exercise. For women, they’re naturally wired for efficient breathing while under stress and inflammation. When their blood has a rich supply of oxygen and minerals driving to each muscle and ligament, they’re able to push past their natural limits with ease.
However, men excel in “burst-like” exercises and powerful movements on the track and field. For us, running sprints, deadlifting twice our bodyweight, bench pressing, throwing dense objects and jumping hurdles come easy. Although we don’t have an overflowing abundance of estrogen in our system to lubricate our joints and connective tissue, our elevated testosterone allows us to explode with speed, agility and brute force.
3. Men and women both have an easy time building “vanity” muscles.
Before we lump each other into various categories, why not celebrate a way in which men and women are the same? Individuals who enter the gym for the first time have a similar goal: they want to look great and feel amazing. While many of us have developed tailored philosophies for staying in shape, we all want to look fit and athletic.
If you were to ask the average male what their ideal body would look like, they would claim that having bulging biceps, a large chest and rippling abs would be their pinnacle. Women who answer this question may want to tone their legs, sculpt their booty and lose weight around their midsection.
Lucky for us, males and females can easily build and tone these areas with diet, training and patience. Men are naturally inclined to have larger upper bodies, broad shoulders, impressive arms and expansive back muscles. These genetic factors stem from the fact that men have more androgen receptors located in their upper body than females.
Without going into the specifics, androgen receptors are small areas where testosterone can influence growth and tissue expansion. Since men have an abundance of androgen receptors in their deltoids, biceps, trapezius and pectorals, external stimuli, such as weightlifting and resistance programs, flood these areas with testosterone. When this happens, they develop the notorious ‘V’ taper shape.
Women, don’t you worry! Building the “hourglass” figure of your dreams is within your capabilities. From an evolutionary standpoint, women have long since carried the majority of their body weight within their lower extremities. For this reason, building muscular and toned glutes, calves, thighs and hip flexors takes relatively little effort compared to men.
If you’re the type of female who dreams of having the “curvy” body you see online and in magazines, these exercises will help you along the way:
- Glute extensions
- Weight-assisted bridges
- Walking lunges
- Lying hamstring curls
- Split squats
- Calf raises
With the proper diet and exercise routine utilising these movements, building the body of your dreams is well within your potential. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in the world of fitness or entering the gym for the first time, you’re capable of anything you set your mind to.
4. Women are capable of a great deal more than they think, and men can take a “breather” now and again.
We encourage men and women to reach inside themselves and understand that they need to be gentle and forgiving with themselves.
To the women out there, do you often cut your workouts short for fear of hurting yourself or over-exertion? Moreover, do you find yourself using phrases like “I could never have a body like that.” or “I will never look good in my clothes?” If so, you’re selling yourself short on your potential!
Men, do you feel like you’re failing if you’re not in the gym every day? Do you go through bouts of anxiety and body dysmorphia when comparing yourself to other men in your gym and your favourite movies? Once you stop comparing yourself to external variables outside of your control, real change and growth can occur.
Men and women, while different in many ways, can come together and change their bodies and minds for the better when they stop seeking external motivation. While each gender has different standards they hold themselves to, the only person they need to compete with is themselves. When they strive to be better than they were the day before, their future will only get better and more abundant.
Our mission is to help people live their best lives outside of the gym by providing the best possible standards of personal fitness training in London.
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