If men and women are essentially equal, can they take up the same sports? Can they participate in the same exercise regimens? Can they fill in their leisure hours with the same recreational activities?
They can, and they should. Women are taking up weight training, to name one example. Women are learning that bodily strength need not necessarily mean bulging biceps and triceps, and that they can be strong and healthy as a result of exercise and athletic endeavor – while also looking and feeling – more graceful and attractive.
Increasingly, women are taking up exercise programs; indeed, many more women than men of comparable ages are going into sports activities. And, they are developing the exercise and sports-recreation programs that best suit their temperament and tastes. Jogging is only one of many possible answers.
There are some physiological differences between men and women that are of special relevance in a recreational or fitness program. For example, women are more flexible than men at all ages. Also, women normally carry a somewhat greater percentage of fat than men. For that reason, among others, women do not so readily develop the muscle bulges than male weight lifters have.
Women have heart rates that are five to ten beats per minute faster than those for men. This finding is interesting in view of the fact that before puberty girls and boys do not differ substantially in terms of maximum oxygen consumption. It prompts the question of whether or not women’s heart rates are culturally conditioned. Are they more rapid than those of men because of the traditions that have long forced different patterns of exercise and other behavior for girls and women? That question has not yet been answered.
Some other differences may be mentioned. The working capacity of the average woman in the post-puberty years has been found to be about 85 per cent of that of the average man of comparable age. That effect comes about because of the woman’s smaller heart muscle size and strength capacity. Thus women generally find that while exercising their pulse rates rise more rapidly and to higher levels than those of men.
It follows that if men and women can take part in the same exercises and sports, they can also take part in the same competitive activities, whether athletic or of some other kind. However, consideration should be given to the physiological differences between the sexes, including the different heart rates. Testing conducted in a physician’s office, laboratory, or clinic should follow the same procedures as for men. Training effects should be sought by the same means. And the same pre-competition protocols that apply to men apply to women.
Some authorities maintain that women are assuming unnecessary and perhaps serious risks when they take part in competitive activities or sports that involve heavy body contact. The risks center in the breast area, where bruises and contusions can do permanent, painful damage.
But physicians see little difference between the sexes with respect to the desirability of engaging in non-contact activities. Girls and boys, men and women, have nearly equal capacity for competitive sports and games – aside from the limitations noted – and can enjoy such activities equally.
What do you think?