GENDER DIFFERENCES DO EXIST! MEN VS. WOMEN IN THE GYM: WE BREAK IT DOWN
When it comes to working out, men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Sure – we’re all aware of the typical stereotypes – men as loud, grunting meatheads only interested in bulk, and women just making sure they look good in the mirror. But does any of this typecasting really hold up? Some of it, yeah …. But some of it’s overblown, with each gender closing the gaps from each side. Motivation is a big difference. According to this WebMD article on gender differences in the gym, men like working out because it’s a sport, it’s fun, it’s competitive or it’s just something they’ve always done. Sure, they also work out to improve their appearance – but the focus is more on getting bigger and bulkier. Women, the article says, work out mostly to look good. They see the Instagram pictures of models and celebrities and feel the pressure to keep up. Indeed, according to a 2014 study on gender differences in the gym, women reported exercising for weight loss and toning more than men, whereas men reported exercising for enjoyment more than women. But not all reports corroborate. A 2001 study by St. John Fisher College on gender differences in fitness motivation said appearance was the top motivator for both sexes. And more women are working to define success in the gym according to their own standards and not society’s. “My fitness ideal comes from myself,” explains one woman in this “A Sweat Life” blog post on gender perspectives on fitness. “When I feel strong and energetic from maintaining a positive, well-rounded lifestyle, my whole perspective improves. I know what it takes to feel that great, and it isn’t easy, but it is worth it.” “My fitness ideal is looking bomb in some of my favorite outfits,” says another. “But I know I could look bomb at 10 lbs. over what the Insta models say I should be.” Upper body vs. lower body “Men typically work out the upper part of their body more,” says Hayden Franks, a Houston-area gym-goer. “Women focus more on the lower half.” And research does seem to back this up. In one gender differences-in-exercise study by L. Mealey (1997) and a 2010 follow-up study by PK Jonason, the males focused their energy on making themselves look larger, focusing on building their upper body, while women focused more on losing weight, with an emphasis on the lower body. The biological/evolutionary reason, researchers theorized, was competition within each gender for a mate. Biological differences may also have something to do with men and women targeting different areas. Women, for instance, store fat differently in their body than men. They have more subcutaneous fat (between the muscle and skin) with more of it settling in the lower half of their body – especially on the butt, hips and thighs. Men, in contrast, have more visceral fat - the fat that collects around the organs, higher up. This gives rise to the classic female “pear shape” of weight gain versus more of an “apple shape” in men. Women are more polite – maybe too polite When it comes to the gym, one recent study says women are inclined to avoid encroaching on men’s time and space – and it the process, often conceding what’s rightfully theirs. At least that’s according to Stephanie Coen, a postdoctoral associate in geography at the University of Western Ontario, who interviewed 52 gym-goers of both genders from the same city.
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