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Men vs. Women - Different Fitness Programs for Different Genders

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When opportunities for women to participate in organized sports became more plentiful after Title IX legislation, sports-related merchandise for women started to appear. At first, traditional men’s equipment and clothing was simply colored pink and sold as women’s gear. But as it became clear women were more prone to injuries, especially knee, ankle and foot injuries, some sports companies realized women aren’t just small men — they are different in several ways. Cooper Clinic COO and Preventive Medicine Physician, Michele Kettles, MD, MSPH, discusses the differences between fitness programs for men and women.

Examining the Differences
Research at these companies and in the academic realm revealed significant differences in anatomy, physiology, and psychosociology that affect female performance. Thus, an entire industry was spawned that caters to women’s health and fitness needs. A quick search of the Internet will reveal women-specific bikes, tennis racquets, running shoes, kayaks, and more. Is all this really necessary?

In short, yes! There are important physiological differences between men and women. For example, women typically have 10 percent more body fat than men, 30 to 50 percent less upper-body strength, smaller hearts and smaller muscle fibers. Therefore, it is important for women to have their own fitness equipment and be advised about proper exercise programs tailored just for them.

Programs Should Vary With Age
Fitness has an important role in helping prevent or manage almost every chronic disease women face, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression. The amount and type of exercise women engage in vary with each stage of life. Recognizing the physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges women face during transition periods helps encourage self-awareness and provides critical insights for health advisors.

The specific components of a balanced fitness program — cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility — vary in importance as we age. Adolescent girls and young women have different needs than their mothers and grandmothers do. The exercise programs of younger females should focus on them as a whole and make exercise fun. Increasing flexibility and muscular strength during menopause and beyond will help improve functionality, balance and reduce the risk for fractures.

For more information about Cooper Fitness Center or Cooper Clinic, click here or call 972.560.2667.