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Exercise may be more important for women than men.

Posted by John Harris on Sat, Jul 29, 2006 @ 11:46 AM

Exercise Guidelines for Women Established

Dr. Martha Gulati stands on a treadmill at the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2005 in Chicago. Gulati and other researchers devised a fitness chart for women that can be used to gauge your fitness by age. Until now, the only such fitness chart was based on men.

For the first time, researchers have established how much exercise women should be able to do for their age and found that their capacity is slightly lower than men's. It also declines a bit faster than men's as they grow older.

Women whose exercise capacity was less than 85 percent of what it should be were twice as likely to die within eight years, the researchers found.

Until now, the only guidelines available were based on men and it wasn't certain whether they applied to women as well. But as more women are being included in medical research, gender differences in some diseases and other health issues are emerging.

The researchers found that to be true for fitness levels. They used the results of 5,721 exercise stress tests on women over 35 to figure out what should be considered normal for them compared to the established fitness levels for men.

"In general, women's fitness levels seem to be lower regardless of her age than for men," said Dr. Martha Gulati, a Chicago cardiologist who led the study.

While fitness declines with age for everyone, the research showed the difference between men and women becomes more pronounced with age, she said. Women lose about 1 percent of their exercise capacity per year, their study found.

"Given that we live longer, it just emphasizes the importance of fitness for women," said Gulati, who along with a fellow researcher has a patent pending for the fitness guidelines.

Their findings are reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.