Women may benefit more from exercise than men do, a new study finds. Here's why.

What a new study says about the benefits of exercise for women as compared to men.
What a new study says about the benefits of exercise for women as compared to men. (Getty Images)

Lace up your sneakers, ladies. A new study found that exercise may be even more beneficial for women than it is for men.

The National Institutes of Health study, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that women who exercise regularly have a 24% lower risk of death from any cause compared to women who don't exercise, while men had a 15% lower risk. The study also revealed that women who exercise had a 36% reduced risk of fatal heart attacks, strokes or other cardiovascular events, whereas men had a 14% reduced risk. So, regular exercise appears to provide more significant health benefits for women in terms of lowering the risk of death and cardiovascular events than it does for men.

Why might exercise benefit women more than men?

Now the question is: Why? Though no conclusions were reached, the researchers have a theory. Male bodies are anatomically and physiologically different from female bodies, with men typically having greater lung capacity, larger hearts, more lean body mass and a higher proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers than women, the study notes. If a man and a woman were to do the same exercises, women would theoretically engage greater respiratory, metabolic and strength demands to perform the same movements as men.

Simply put, it might be more challenging for a woman's body to perform the same exercises as a man, thus making their bodies work harder. The greater the effort exerted in the exercise, theoretically, the greater the health benefits.

Notably, the study also found that women achieved similar or greater benefits than men with shorter durations of exercise. In moderate aerobic exercise, women met their 18% reduced risk mark in half the time needed for men.

What are the implications of this study?

Right now, however, there’s no difference in the recommendations for how much exercise men need versus how much women need, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The recommendation for weekly exercise across the board is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) and two days of muscle-strengthening activity. You can break up this activity time however you wish, such as 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Working toward that recommendation is important. The study noted that only 33% of women and 43% of men who were part of the research met the standard for weekly aerobic exercise, and just 20% of women and 28% of men completed a weekly strength training session.

Cardiologist Dr. Rachel Lampert of Yale Medicine tells Yahoo Life that this study emphasizes that women should focus on getting moving, in whatever way they enjoy. “The fact that the study also shows that women were less likely to be exercising at recommended amounts really highlights the importance for women of finding the time to exercise."

And while men may see a less significant reduction in the risk of death, stroke or heart attack, they should prioritize their workouts, too, whether that's cardio, strength-training or both. "The important takeaway from this study is that, regardless of gender, regular exercise has an impact on reducing adverse cardiac events, similar in scale to lifesaving medications and invasive interventions," Dr. Eleanor Levin, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford Medicine, tells Yahoo Life.

Exercise is also just one piece of the puzzle, Levin adds. There are several other lifestyle changes that can have an important impact on your heart health, including adopting a more plant-based diet, like the DASH diet, managing one’s weight and stress levels, and stopping all forms of smoking.