There is one (1) study that has been done in veteran endurance athletes which did include female athletes and that study was extremely interesting: it did indeed suggest that while endurance exercise might have a negative effect on men, it might actually have a protective effect on women. And wouldn’t it be nice to confirm that this is in fact the case with, you know, further study? And maybe even, and this is possibly going almost too far, but…to find out why?? Could we maybe look into what it might be about the female body that, at least according to this one study, responds so positively to endurance exercise? Lol, don’t be ridiculous, Caroline. Here’s me in Invisible Women explaining how things are actually done:
Even something as basic as advice on how to exercise to keep disease at bay is based on male-biased research. If you run a general search for whether resistance training is good for reducing heart disease, you’ll come across a series of papers warning against resistance training if you have high blood pressure. This is in large part because of the concerns that it doesn’t have as beneficial an effect on lowering blood pressure as aerobic exercise, and also because it causes an increase in artery stiffness. [FYI, this is the issue that has been identified in endurance athletes]
Which is all true. In men. Who, as ever, form the majority of research participants. The research that has been done on women suggests that this advice is not gender-neutral. A 2008 paper, for example, found that not only does resistance training lower blood pressure to a greater extent in women, women don’t suffer from the same increase in artery stiffness. And this matters, because as women get older, their blood pressure gets higher compared to men of the same age, and elevated blood pressure is more directly linked to cardiovascular mortality in women than in men. In fact, the risk of death from coronary artery disease for women is twice that for men for every 20 mm Hg increase in blood pressure above normal levels. It also matters because commonly used antihypertensive drugs have been shown to be less beneficial in lowering blood pressure in women than in men.
So to sum up: for women, the blood-pressure drugs (developed using male subjects) don’t work as effectively, but resistance training just might do the trick. Except we haven’t known that because all the studies have been done on men. And this is before we account for the benefits to women in doing resistance training to counteract osteopenia and osteoporosis, both of which they are at high risk for post-menopause.
Other male-biased advice includes the recommendation for diabetics to do high-intensity interval training; it doesn’t really help female diabetics (we don’t really know why, but this is possibly because women burn fat more than carbs during exercise). We know very little about how women respond to concussions, ‘even though women suffer from concussions at higher rates than men and take longer to recover in comparable sports’. Isometric exercises fatigue women less (which is relevant for post-injury rehabilitation) because men and women have different ratios of types of muscle fibre, but we have ‘a limited understanding of the differences’ because there are ‘an inadequate number of published studies’. (IW, pp.210-11)
Meanwhile a disease like Covid, that’s more deadly to men than women, left us scrambling around injecting oestrogen into male patients
in the vague hope it might do something because we have literally no idea how the female body works 🤪
I don’t know, it’s almost like studying the female body might even matter for the important [default male] people or something???
But don’t worry little ladies, the B[DM]HA assures us they’ll get to us in good time. You know, after they’ve studied the default humans. I mean, maybe.