Women are no more likely than men to have health problems due to strenuous training and extreme physical exertion, researchers report.
“Our findings contain some potentially myth-busting data on the impact of extreme physical activity on women. We have shown that with appropriate training and preparation, many of the previously reported negative health effects can be avoided,” said researcher Robert Gifford, from the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Centre for Defence in Scotland.
In the small study, Gifford and his colleagues assessed the health of the “Ice Maiden” team — six British women before and after they took part in the first all-female expedition crossing Antarctica on foot in 62 days. The researchers looked at health markers such as indicators of stress, hormone levels, body weight and bone strength.
Markers of reproductive function and bone strength did not change, and some markers showed delayed, exercise-related benefits to the women’s physical fitness two weeks after the expedition, the study found.
The findings were presented Sunday at the Society for Endocrinology’s annual conference, in Glasgow, Scotland. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Previous research has suggested that the female reproductive system and stress responses are more sensitive to the negative effects of extreme physical activity.
“These findings could have important relevance for men and women in arduous or stressful employment, where there is concern that they are damaging their health. If an appropriate training and nutritional regime is followed, their health may be protected,” Gifford said in a society news release.
The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more about exercise.
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