Jul 03, 2013

    Different sex, different fitness regime

    WHEN it comes to fitness, experts say men generally want to be bulkier and women want to be trimmer.

    That's why as more women tackle brawny boot camps and men seek flexible peace on the yoga mat, crossing traditional gender lines - intelligently - can be a good idea.

    Ms Geralyn Coopersmith, national director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, said that there are also hormonal, structural and body-composition differences between the sexes.

    "So if they're both training for a marathon they'll train in very similar ways but we'll look out for different things."

    Women's wider hips leave them more prone to knee injuries, while men, pound for pound, will always have more lean body tissue.

    "Technically, the man is fitter in that regard," she said.

    It's harder for women to tackle extreme workouts, such as Crossfit or P90X, Ms Coopersmith said.

    "They're not going to beat the men but will probably get pretty good at it and get very fit," she said.

    Dr Michele Olson, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine, said that while everyone needs aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility, the activities needed to achieve them can be very different.

    "In the early years, women need to focus on bones and men on aerobics," said Dr Olson, a professor at the Auburn University Montgomery Human Performance Lab, in Alabama.

    She added that research shows it's important for younger women to take on activities with sufficient impact, such as jogging, jumping rope or step aerobics, at least 20 minutes twice a week, to develop good bone density.

    "Bone density can fail women in their 40s," said Dr Olson, "while men tend to have robust bones until very late in life".

    She added that heart health is especially important for men, who are plagued by heart disease at a younger age. They need to focus on the correct exercises for the heart, including low-impact cardio exercises like bicycling or swimming.

    Women at any age should lift weights, she said, adding that interval-style training is more efficient in burning the mid-belly fat women tend to store after menopause.

    "It doesn't have to be a boot camp. You can do it on a treadmill by adjusting speed or incline at one-minute intervals," she explained.

    As men age, their lack of flexibility catches up with them, but oestrogen has made the tendons of women more elastic.

    Fitness instructor Ellen Barrett believes the genders require completely different fitness formulas.

    Super-intense, military-style workouts and long-distance running are among the activities Ms Barrett feels are made for men, while Pilates and yoga are so much more woman-friendly.

    Ms Barrett said when she attends a yoga class with her husband "it's like a tale of two cities".

    "I feel like I've had a massage," she explained. "My husband has to recover."