A study conducted by the Society for Endocrinology wanted to see if women can be resilient to extreme physical activity. Women underwent extreme physical training to increase their fitness. The women then went on a transantartic expedition. To the surprise of experimenters, women did not display anymore negative effects compared to men. What this means is that women given the proper training can handle extreme physical activity. This should not be a shock to people who understand basic biology. The issue seems to be that the frailty myth remains present in many studies regarding exercise physiology and endocrinology. The result regarding women being as resilient as men should not come as a startling revelation. The problem is that women have been cast as biological inferiors. Obviously not the weaker sex, but it should be realized that the physical fitness capacity differs among the sexes based on anatomy and physiology. This means that a woman will have a harder time reaching a particular physical fitness level . The element of endurance and the difference between the sexes still remains misunderstood. These findings were presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference. It was conducted by the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Centre for Defense.
There has been the notion that the female reproductive system and stress hormone response is more sensitive to arduous physical activity. Some studies also indicated that extreme physical activity can interrupt normal female reproductive function, impair bone strength, and elevate stress hormone levels higher than normal in women. To test possible negative effects of extreme endurance exercise Dr. Robert Gifford selected six women for a transantartic expedition. This sample was small, yet it did not indicate their fitness level prior to the training given. A woman with a higher fitness level or more experience with physical activity would have more advantage compared to an average woman. The fittest would most likely perform better.
The performance of these two women would differ in relation to fitness level.
Several markers of health were monitored for the expedition. Body weight, bone strength, metabolism, and the hormone function of the reproductive system. The heath markers were not only preserved, but revealed that the exercise regimen contributed to the success. The six subject were involved in a fitness regimen two weeks before the expedition. Dr .Gifford proclaimed : “we have shown that with appropriate training and preparation, many of the previously reported negative health effects can be avoided.” Dr. Robert Gifford stated that this data could put to rest myth regarding women and extreme activity. Although, there are some elements of the experiment that should be questioned. Training obviously made a difference. The length of the expedition could have an impact on health. Longer expeditions may show that women’s health makers may decline faster than her male counterpart.
Race would not be a factor in this study. Biologically, race does not exist. Populations vary in genetics, but there is only one species of homo sapiens.
The report also mentions it was not able to account for other factors such as age and ethnicity. Based on what is known, predictions could be made. Age can impact fitness with changes in metabolism and changes in the musculsoskeletal structure. As people age, they lose bone and muscle mass. When a person reaches their mid-twenties their muscles reach their natural full growth. Around age 25 most people have reached their full bone mass and height. This primarily would be males who are slower to grow than females, who reach their full hieght by age 18. The age of physical fitness peak for athletes could be around age 30 and performance gradually declines from that point. This means an older person would not be as fast or as strong in their youth. It is also odd that some would think race or ethnicity would have an effect on results. Skin color is the product of melanin. To say that one race or ethnicity would handle this better would be ludicrous. Certain populations used to cold climates may be more adaptable to a transantartic expedition. This is related to environment rather than race. Race would not impact performance,but age would. Hormones play a major role in fitness and they tell a lot about how women manage under extreme physical activity.
Sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen have an impact on fitness levels. While estrogen can have a positive effect on bone density relative to bone mineralization, it add more fat tissue to the female body. Subcutaneous fat does not have an athletic benefit, yet the difference in body composition could be useful in a cold environment. This means women would be better at maintaining body heat in the Antarctic. Muscle is not a big insulator of heat.
Given the same training regimen, men normally gain more strength and speed depending on genetics, health condition, and somatotype. A muscular woman still carries more fat compared to a muscular man.
This is an instance in which body composition and fat percentage could work to women’s advantage. Muscle fiber type also would be helpful if this is a test of endurance. Women tend to have more type I muscle fiber. Type I muscle fiber is essential for endurance based physical activities. Men have more type II muscle fibers and a body with denser bones. One factor that is important strength is the presence of free testosterone. Prior to puberty, there is limited difference in physical fitness capacity between boys and girls. Growth hormone causes an increase in body size for both sexes, but the sex hormones are adjusting the body for sexual reproduction.
Exercise physiology has now taken an interest in studying improved sports performance techniques in women.
The growth of the testicles allows for higher testosterone production in males inducing strength spurts. Lutienizing and follicle producing hormone work on a feedback loop n relation to sex hormones. Males have two growth spurts. The second one occurs two years after puberty. Between this period the strength spurt occurs increasing total muscle mass, while shoulder length increases. Puberty does not increase a woman’s fitness optimum. Therefore, training must be adjusted to take note of the differences in endocrinology. Women who participate in athletics could be susceptible to certain injuries. Looser joints, lighter bone density, and changes in hormones can effect the body. The female athlete could be vulnerable to ammenorrhea if her body fat levels get too low. ACL tears can be a serious risk. Menstruation, pregnancy, or sudden hormonal changes can effect the female body that would not occur in men. Despite these differences and sex specific issues women can attain a high level of fitness. Men have more musculoskeletal mass which allows their bodies to sustain more strain and physical trauma. Women, far from being delicate flowers can benefit immensely from training. However, the higher the physical intensity, the more women may struggle . As Dr. Gifford articulated “If an appropriate training and nutritional regime is followed, their health may be protected.”
The human body reacts to extreme temperatures. Depending on environment, men and women’s resilience would differ in this regard. Shivering and perspiration are reactions to either warmth or cold. Hyothermia can happen when if core temperature goes below 95 degrees fahrenheit. The body’s core temperature functions at a range between 97. 7 to 99.5 degrees fahrenheit. The body requires thermoregulation to maintain adequate metabolism and homeostasis. Antarctica is the only continent not inhabited by human beings due to its extreme cold weather.
Antarctica would be a difficult place to establish human civilization. Climate change may alter this, however the gradual decrease in the polar ice caps would cause sea levels to rise.
There are a number of dangerous changes that can happen to the body under extreme cold. Hypothermia begins, while simultaneously breathing rate slows down. The heart rate may increase and arrhythmia starts. Tissues of the body cannot handle dramatically low temperatures resulting in frostbite. Core organs will shutdown.Such changes may cause confusion to such a great extent some people may irrationally remove their clothing. This odd phenomenon is known as paradoxical undressing. The brain becomes the last organ to function and if these conditions are not addressed death is the result. Going on long Antarctic expeditions would take a level of endurance and strength to handle extreme weather conditions. Some question why bother to explore this part of the Earth. The reason to do so may serve as a training ground for exploration of other planets in the distant future. Although spacecraft needs to advance, mastering difficult environments on Earth would serve as practice in settling outer space. This study has more applications than just examining endurance.
The findings of this study could be useful to designing training programs for women entering physically demanding occupations. Firefighting, law enforcement, sports, construction, the military, and space exploration are fields that will see an increase in female workers. There is a misconception that men are just tougher and physically superior to women and therefore would be naturally better at such occupations. Sexism and pseudoscience still contribute to a large amount of gender bias, which women have to overcome when entering these careers.
Women have taken interest in law enforcement and the military, thought to be a male only job.
These occupations require a physical fitness test that many women struggle to meet. Understanding women’s physiological and physical capabilities can contribute to increasing numbers and extending careers in such fields. Dr. Gifford explained the relevance as follows : “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.” Seeing as these jobs demand high amounts of physical activity, there can be an attrition rate. Injuries or declining health can cause a employee shortage or an increase in medical expenses for the place of employment. Preventing future and on the job health concerns or accidents is essential to efficiency and success.
Women are doing jobs that were thought to be too dangerous for them. The notion that there are some jobs women should not do must be discarded.
There seems to be a level of disbelief about women’s capabilities are. Questions still remain for this study. The team at the University of Edinburgh want to investigate further by seeing which specific fitness regimens work better. Doing so would reveal how it would effect stress and energy balance in the body under extreme physical exertion. The motivation for the Royal Centre for Defense may have a military application. Women are allowed in the United Kingdom to serve in combat roles and integration of women into the occupation is a goal. Training women to meet the physical demands requires a different approach. Exercise and nutrition can negate some aspects of sexual dimorphism, yet it does not eliminate them completely. Men still have more absolute physical strength and aerobic capacity. However, women could possibly have an endurance advantage, which as not been fully researched. If confirmed through rigorous experimentation, this could lead to effective fitness programs for women.