A new study from the University of Waterloo found that when women start to exercise, they can process oxygen more quickly than men can during the same exercise. The speed at which we process oxygen is a measure of aerobic fitness, and quicker is better.
Researchers had 18 young men and women exercise on a treadmill, and women performed consistently better than men when it came to oxygen processing. Faster oxygen processing means less muscle fatigue and effort perception, as well as better athletic performance. These results conflict with previous studies done on children and older adults, which showed faster oxygen uptake in men, according to the study’s abstract. And it wasn’t a minuscule margin, either—in the new study, women’s bodies processed oxygen 30% faster than men’s, which debunks the conventional assumption that men are naturally more athletically inclined than women.
“We found that women’s muscles extract oxygen from the blood faster, which, scientifically speaking, indicates a superior aerobic system,” said professor Richard Hughson, who’s part of the faculty of applied health sciences at the university.
While scientists aren’t sure why women process oxygen faster, lead author Thomas Beltrame notes that going forward the findings could change our approach to fitness assessments and athletic training.