With exercise, obese women may need to go hard

U. MISSOURI (US) — Women who are obese may not get the same benefits from aerobic exercise that men do, a new study shows.

More than one-third of Americans are obese, and they often experience accompanying health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. In response to the so-called obesity epidemic, many medical professionals have recommended diet and exercise as a way to improve health.


“Our results indicate gender may contribute to differences in cardiovascular function of obese individuals with Type 2 diabetes,” says Jill Kanaley, professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri.

“Men saw improvement after aerobic exercise training, but the women did not experience the same benefits.”

For the study published in the journal Metabolism, Kanaley and colleagues monitored cardiovascular responses, such as heart rate and blood pressure, of nearly 75 obese men and women with Type 2 diabetes. To monitor cardiovascular responses, participants completed an isometric handgrip test, which involves continually and forcefully squeezing an object for a few minutes, at the beginning and end of a structured, 16-week walking program.

“What this research highlights, at least using the handgrip test, is that the advantages we think exercise is going to give individuals may not be the same across genders, particularly for those who have Type 2 diabetes,” Kanaley says. “This is a concern because there are high mortality rates with Type 2 diabetes, especially for women.

“We’re trying to find successful interventions to help these individuals, and we keep assuming that exercise will do the trick—we think when we tell people to ‘go train,’ regardless of gender, everyone will get the same results. Our research indicates certain exercises may not be enough for women, as our walking program did not show positive improvements for them.”

Obese women with Type 2 diabetes might benefit from longer durations or higher intensities of exercise, Kanaley says. In addition, more concern should be placed on how long it takes cardiovascular function to return to normal after exercise as well as how fast the heart beats during physical exertion.

“A lot of people focus on how high individuals’ heart rates get during exercise, but their recovery rates also should be monitored,” Kanaley says. “When you exercise, you want your blood pressure to rise, but you don’t want it to get too high.

“Your blood pressure should return to normal relatively quickly after you stop exercise. In our study, the recovery rate for women was not as rapid as for men. After the men trained, they got an even better recovery time, whereas women’s time stayed about the same.”

Source: University of Missouri