Are Exercise Researchers Ignoring Women?

Most women have heard about the ongoing income gap for women, but did you know that there’s also a discrepancy in scientific studies about women and exercise? Bethany Brookshire delved into this for a sciencenews.org article.

Studying The Research

Brookshire looked at three major scientific publications: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, American Journal of Sports Medicine and the British Journal of Sports Medicine. She found that the studies used in those publications for the first five months of 2015 included women as participants 42 percent of the time. However, when she examined those same research studies to determine which were men only and women only, 27 percent looked at men only and just 4 percent were women only.

Reasons For Underrepresentation

Why are women less frequently used as subjects in research studies? After all, it isn’t like women’s and men’s bodies are identical. One reason that some have given for the disparity stems from women’s periods. The menstrual cycle and the accompanying hormones can affect how women respond in studies, limiting the timeframes that women can be studied. But even research on how female athletes are affected by their periods is not extensive. Many women believe that their periods negatively impact their athletic potential, however that has not been determined to be true or false.

In the past, women were not included in research trials out of concerns for what the experimentation may do to their reproductive abilities. A better understanding of fertility and reproduction has made that reason no longer valid.

Women and Exercise

Women and men exercise now at about the same rate. While physical participation may be equal, the studies of women and exercise have not caught up to this reality. In May 2014, the National Institutes of Health announced a new policy to try and create more equality in research studies. Brookshire’s article didn’t seem to find any significant increase in females in research studies yet. That is dangerous. One example is that women are at higher risk for knee injuries, but more men than women are still used in knee injury studies—58 to 42 percent. Not having research that is specific to women’s bodies and issues can be detrimental to women’s health in the long run. Maybe there are some instances where the training, fitness or diet recommendations for men and women who exercise will be the same, but for those times when there are differences, women deserve to learn about what is best for their bodies to preserve their wellness.

Take a few minutes today to speak to a Shapes Fitness For Women Personal Trainer. They can help tailor a program that is specific to your needs.