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Women Have an Edge in Endurance

The female sex processes oxygen in the muscles at a faster rate.

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In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.


THE SCIENCE
A new study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism reveals that women may be naturally more aerobically fit than their male counterparts.
EXPERT INSIGHT

Researchers had men and women wear oxygen masks while they gradually increased the speed and incline on the treadmill until they reached 80 percent of their maximum heart rate. “When tested at what should be an equivalent work rate, women’s muscles were able to extract oxygen roughly 30 percent faster than men’s,” says study author Richard L. Hughson, Ph.D., senior director of research at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging in Ontario, Canada. This means that women might be primed to tire less quickly and recover faster than men during long-distance sports. More research is needed to explain the phenomenon, but one factor could be that women have more slow-twitch muscle fibers.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This study shows that women could have an advantage in endurance sports and might affect the way athletic training and benchmarks are approached in the near future.