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