A study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism reveals that women's muscles can tolerate extended muscle activity and experience less fatigue compared with men with similar athletic abilities.
According to researchers from the University of British Columbia, results from their natural muscle activity experiment show that men are able to perform the requested muscular movement faster and with more strength, but they also become tired more quickly than their female counterparts.
Previous studies have already shown that women tended to do better than men in terms of muscle endurance when put through isometric muscle tests, which monitor muscle activity in static conditions, according to assistant professor Brian Dalton, the author of the study.
"We wanted to find out if that's true during more dynamic and practical everyday movements," Professor Dalton said.
Male vs. Female Muscle Endurance
In order to confirm the results from previous studies and isometric muscle tests, Professor Dalton and his collaborators from the University of Oregon and University of Guelph recruited 17 participants composed of nine women and eight men who had similar physical fitness levels and athletic abilities.
The participants were hooked up to sensors that would monitor their muscle's electrical activity, power, speed, and torque. Once all the sensors were in place, they were instructed to flex their foot 200 times as fast as they could. This action would simulate the same natural muscle activity in the foot in daily activities such as walking and standing.
Professor Dalton noted that the team decided to monitor the calf muscles because these are involved in everyday movements, but that the result from the isolated muscle still applies to other muscle groups.
What the team found was that the men's muscle movements were powerful and fast at first but also tended to get tired faster. Women, on the other hand, did not exhibit the same level of muscle exhaustion even after completing the task.
"If ever an ultra-ultra-marathon is developed, women may well dominate in that arena," Professor Dalton said, noting that previous studies were also consistent with his team's results.
Levelling The Playing Field
Professor Dalton says that, more than a confirmation of women's muscle endurance, their study can be used for practical applications like designing work-related activities to decrease fatigue and increase endurance in males.
"Both sexes have valuable physical abilities ... There's no battle at all. Maybe more of a balance of the sexes," he quips.