Exercise And The Battle Of The Sexes
July 8, 2013

Exercise And The Battle Of The Sexes

Recently, my boyfriend and I went on a hike. The majority of the hike was up a mountain at a steady incline. We both managed it successfully, but I definitely noticed differences in how we went about it. My boyfriend has much greater speed than I do, plus he is stronger, so carrying the 35-pound pack on his back did not phase him. Despite the fact that he was able to move faster, I was still comparable in our trek. I just had to stop occasionally in order to rest. Six and a half miles later, we finished our hike equally exhausted, yet feeling good. We challenged ourselves and felt great about it. We went about the hike with different mentalities and abilities, but we both conquered it, all in good time, too.

Men and women are different. Duh. But even how and why men and women exercise differ in many ways. Reuters recently reported on just these differences. Typically, men want to be bulkier, women want to be trimmer, and both want to do what they are good at.

Geralyn Coopersmith, national director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, says that it is probably good then that more women are participating in boot camps and men have pursued yoga. However, there are some limitations. For instance, it is harder for women to engage in extreme workouts because their bodies are shaped differently. Women have wider hips, which means they are more likely to experience knee injury, which often is a result of extreme workouts. Plus, men have more lean body mass pound for pound than women do.

This does not mean that women cannot do extreme workouts, but that it will be harder for them. They can do them, and can do them very well, but it is important for women to be aware of their body limitations. It is also important for women to push themselves more.

The Reuter’s article further explain the differences, starting with women,

“Dr. Michele Olson, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine said while everyone needs aerobic, strength and flexibility, the activities needed to achieve it can be very different, depending gender and age.

“In the early years women need to focus on bones and men on aerobics,” said Olson, a professor at the Auburn University Montgomery Human Performance Lab, in Alabama.

She added that research shows it’s important for younger women to take on activities with sufficient impact, such as jogging, jumping rope or step aerobics, at least 20 minutes twice a week, to develop good bone density.”

Olson then identifies that men need to focus more on heart health. Though both men and women suffer from heart disease, men do so at a younger age. As Olson suggests, “They need to focus on the correct exercises for the heart, including low-impact cardio exercises like bicycling or swimming.”

So, women should lift more weights, jog, and generally push themselves more while men should bike, lift weights, and participate in stretching exercises like Pilates and yoga.

I think really the important information in this article is not that the sexes exercise differently, but that all people need to participate in more exercise. We need to challenge ourselves and experience different modes of exercise. We need cardio and weights and stretching. We need the calm and flexibility of yoga (or Pilates) as well as the blood-pumping intensity of extreme workouts and cardio. We need to focus on flexibility just as much as bone density, bulk, and being trim.

True, men and women have different bodies for biological reasons, but that should not limit their participation in different exercises. Though men are not as flexible as women, men should still do yoga. And though women many not have as much lean body mass, they should still lift weights. It is a matter of training. Start slow and build up your strength, flexibility, and endurance. Before you know it, you, too, will be able to do downward facing dog with ease or lift more poundage than ever before.

Whether you exercise alone or with others, take this article’s suggestions and challenge yourself. But do so safely.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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