Good News, Ladies: Studies Show Women Are Fitter Than Men

I am blessed to have lots of strong women in my life. I was raised by an incredible mom, I have an amazing wife, and two exceptional daughters. When it comes to inner-strength, vitality, and sheer stamina…guys, the gals invariably run circles around us.

I didn’t necessarily need more confirmation that females are the stronger and more resilient sex, but I recently got some in the form of a new study that found that women are fitter than men. You can call it more good news for the ladies if you will, but it’s also research that shakes up some conventional wisdom when it comes to the ongoing battle of the sexes. Let’s have a closer look and see what the findings mean to your health.

New Research Suggests That Women Process Oxygen More Efficiently Than Men

The new study was conducted by scientists at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Dr. Thomas Beltrane and his team compared oxygen uptake and muscle oxygen extraction in a group of men and women who undertook a treadmill exercise. The participants were screened so that their ages and weights were comparable. The data revealed that women consistently outperformed men (by a 30% margin) in terms of the way their bodies metabolized oxygen. Dr. Beltrane explains the findings this way, “We found that women’s muscles extract oxygen from the blood faster, which, scientifically speaking, indicates a superior aerobic system.”

There are several reasons why this more efficient oxygen processing in women is important. In order to stretch and contract, the muscles in your body must produce cellular energy. The preferred way that your cells create that energy is to use oxygen as a catalyst for the process we call aerobic metabolism.

When oxygen is not present in sufficient quantities the cells have to rely on a different process called anaerobic metabolism, which allows the cells to produce energy without consuming oxygen. But this method leads to waste products (including lactic acid) building up in the muscles. These byproducts are toxic and their accumulation ultimately result in fatigue.

Virtually all exercise involves some of both aerobic and anaerobic processes. When an athlete is fresh and hitting their stride, then aerobic conditions predominate. But when the intensity and duration of exertion demands increase, then the muscles have to rely on anaerobic mechanisms too. You can see the situation play out when the long-distance runner’s muscles begin to grow fatigued and cramp up. Olympic marathoners call to this as “hitting the wall.”  We in the medical community refer to this phenomenon as the “metabolic threshold.”

Why is this important to you? Well, all the available evidence indicates that aerobic exercise is far less stressful to the heart, the joints, the musculoskeletal system. When you build up your aerobic capacity, then you will benefit in many ways:

  • You’ll be able to stay active longer, which will help you burn more calories.
  • Aerobic exercise helps boost the efficiency of your heart and lungs, which improves your circulation, metabolism, and immune system.
  • Aerobic activities counteract stress hormones and helps the body sweat out toxins.


Women are the clear victors when it comes to oxygen extraction, but my most important takeaway from all this is that our bodies (male and female) were designed to be active and health is inextricably linked to exertion.

Here a simple equation that’s as powerful as any diet or pharmaceutical remedy–Movement is medicine. It’s so important to build up your and maintain your aerobic capacity and the best way to do this is to get at least 20 to 30  minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise in every day. The form you choose is up to you, but I highly recommend walking, hiking, yoga, swimming, tai chi as great places to start.

The latest study on women’s superior oxygen efficiency is an opportunity for everyone. It’s certainly a challenge for men to up our game by getting more exercise in our daily lives. After all, the gals already have a leg up on us and we have some ground to make up. For the ladies, getting a good workout regularly will help you maintain your natural advantages.

Be well,

Dr. Josh