Exercise and training in women, Part I: Influence of gender on exercise and training responses

Can J Appl Physiol. 2000 Feb;25(1):19-34. doi: 10.1139/h00-002.


Exercise and training responses in women are briefly reviewed. Part I of the paper considers the influence of gender on such responses. The average woman has a smaller inherent aerobic power and less muscular strength than a man, reflecting sociocultural influences, physical size, body composition, and hormonal milieu. Nevertheless, the best-trained women can out-perform sedentary men. The handicap of the average woman is offset by a lighter body mass and a tendency to metabolize fat rather than carbohydrate during exercise. A lack of anabolic hormones may limit training increases of muscle bulk in the female. A low initial fitness may enhance the scope for training tolerance, but it also limits tolerance of conditioning. Nevertheless, women seem less vulnerable than men to exercise-induced sudden death and overtraining. Part II of the review considers the influence of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy upon exercise and training responses. Physical activity programmes for young women should take account of possible pregnancy. Potential dangers to the foetus include an excessive rise of core body temperature, a decrease of maternal blood sugar, and foetal hypoxia. Nevertheless, regular moderate exercise generally has a favourable impact upon pregnancy outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena
  • Pregnancy / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Hormones