According to a review of studies in 2016 reported on by Health, women are able to exercise for longer periods of time than men, not because they’re stronger (of course), but because their muscles are more resistant to fatigue. This means women can perform over longer periods of time at the same relative intensity.
Previously, most studies on physical activity and performance were done exclusively on men. Men have an advantage over women when it comes to building muscle, but women are better at extended athletic performance.
Women Process Oxygen Faster
More recent research that has aimed to determine whether women could be better athletes has found that young women can process oxygen faster than young men. Women’s muscles seem to absorb oxygen from the blood faster, helping ease the strain on the cells of the body. Oxygen absorption is a key factor of overall aerobic fitness.
Admittedly, the study in question was quite small-scale, comprised of just 18 young men and women. Within their own genders, the men and women were of similar weights. Everyone in the study did the same exercise, which was to walk on a treadmill. Researchers compared oxygen consumption during the workout in both genders. The findings were that the men were consistently less efficient than the women. The women consumed and extracted oxygen 30 percent faster.
These findings are at odds with the conventional view that men are biologically more athletic than women.
The role of oxygen in fitness
Prior research has proved that exercise augments to ability to use oxygen, which is one of the biggest benefits. When you work out, your lungs take oxygen in to give you energy and get rid of carbon dioxide, which is basically a by-product of the process. The muscles also receive oxygen through the heart and blood. The authors of the above study wrote that women’s muscles extracted oxygen from the blood at a more rapid rate, which they believe indicated a “superior aerobic system.”
It’s not clear why this is the case, but the authors find their research could be the starting point of developing improved training programs for athletes, given that most of the current ones are tailored to the male organism.
Based on these findings, it would seem that men’s physical advantages when it comes to fitness are limited to pure strength and the ability to build muscle. Of course, more studies are necessary to be able to claim this as a fact.