Training Network: Wilderness Survival | Orienteering

Fitness and Gender

People vary in their physical makeup. Each body reacts differently to varying degrees of physical stress, and no two bodies react exactly the same way to the same physical stress. The following paragraphs describe the most important physical and physiological differences between men and women.

SIZE

The average 18-year-old man is 70.2 inches tall and weighs 144.8 pounds, whereas the average woman of the same age is 64.4 inches tall and weighs 126.6 pounds. This difference in size affects the absolute amount of physical work that can be performed by men and women.

MUSCLES

Men have 50 percent greater total muscle mass, based on weight, than do women. A woman who is the same size as her male counterpart is generally only 80 percent as strong. Therefore, men usually have an advantage in strength, speed, and power over women.

FAT

Women carry about 10 percentage points more body fat than do men of the same age. Men accumulate fat primarily in the back, chest, and abdomen; women gain fat in the buttocks, arms, and thighs. Also, because the center of gravity is lower in women than in men, women must overcome more resistance in activities that require movement of the lower body.

BONES

Women have less bone mass than men, but their pelvic structure is wider. This difference gives men an advantage in running efficiency.

HEART SIZE AND RATE

The average woman's heart is 25 percent smaller than the average man's. Thus, the man's heart can pump more blood with each beat. The larger heart size contributes to the slower resting heart rate (five to eight beats a minute slower) in males. This lower rate is evident both at rest and at any given level of submaximal exercise. Thus, for any given work rate, the faster heart rate means that most women will become fatigued sooner than men.

FLEXIBILITY

Women generally are more flexible than men.

LUNGS

The lung capacity of men is 25 to 30 percent greater than that of women. This gives men still another advantage in the processing of oxygen and in doing aerobic work such as running.

RESPONSE TO HEAT

A woman's response to heat stress differs somewhat from a man's. Women sweat less, lose less heat through evaporation, and reach higher body temperatures before sweating starts. Nevertheless, women can adapt to heat stress as well as men. Regardless of gender, people with a higher level of physical fitness generally better tolerate, and adapt more readily to, heat stress than do less fit individuals.

Back to Fitness Introduction


Buy The Book This Site Is Based On
U.S. Army Field Manual 21-20 is the source material for this website. A soldier's level of physical fitness has a direct impact on his combat readiness. The many battles in which American troops have fought under-score the important role physical fitness plays on the battlefield. The renewed nationwide interest in fitness has been accompanied by many research studies on the effects of regular participation in sound physical fitness programs. The overwhelming conclusion is that such programs enhance a person's quality of life, improve productivity, and bring about positive physical and mental changes. Not only are physically fit soldiers essential to the Army, they are also more likely to have enjoyable, productive lives, and you can too.

Copyright 2001-2017 Jalic Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us