Focus on Fitness: Things women need from their health andfitness sources

By Gloria Schwartz

Historically, most medical studies have been conducted using male subjects. Women are significantly underrepresented in research on some of the top killers of women, such as cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Trials that exclude women are potentially hazardous to women’s health. Ignoring biological sex differences and adjusting the prescribed dosages or making other modifications to account for women’s generally smaller stature is often inadequate. Women want and deserve to be included in studies and have the medical research gender gap closed.

A study of some 20,000 Americans who received CPR in public found that women are less likely to be given CPR than men. Fear of pressing too hard and harming a woman, as well as concern about exposing and accidentally touching a woman’s breasts, may deter people from performing CPR on women in public. The study found that 39 per cent of women who had a cardiac arrest in public received CPR versus 45 per cent of men, and men have a 23 per cent greater chance of survival. Better CPR training (e.g., use of female mannequins for practice and in-class discussion of this gender issue) may alleviate the problem. Perhaps CPR techniques performed on women should be different to provide better outcomes.

When women present symptoms to their physician or other health care providers, they are more likely than men to be underdiagnosed or undertreated, regardless of the gender of the provider. For example, men and women may present with or discuss different heart attack symptoms. Because women may have atypical symptoms (e.g., fatigue, nausea, back pain) and not the classic chest pains, women are more likely to be undertreated, or given diagnostic tests and treatments based on cardiac research done on men, resulting in poorer outcomes. In 2016, the American Heart Association released its first scientific statement on women’s heart attacks, including a host of recommendations.

When men tell their doctor they’ve been experiencing chest pains or other heart attack symptoms, they are more likely to be referred for testing or sent directly to the ER. Women need to advocate for themselves, demand tests and basically to be taken seriously, but the onus shouldn’t be on the patients. Medical professionals should be trained to be aware of gender bias, have better knowledge of different symptoms in men versus women, and ensure they take their patients’ concerns seriously. Familiarize yourself with women’s heart attack symptoms ( Women want and deserve to be heard, acknowledged and treated appropriately.

Women are the prime target audience of television daytime talk shows. I recently caught a segment of “The Social” featuring a homeopath/chiropractor demonstrating yoga-style exercises. This guest made some claims that I found to be factually inaccurate – such as stating that holding the dancer yoga pose for 20-30 seconds gives you a “calorie burn.” The gullible co-hosts seemed very excited that they could burn extra calories in just a few seconds. The fact is that holding any single pose for a few seconds burns an insignificant number of calories. You burn calories all the time, even when you sit or sleep. You burn approximately four to six calories per minute in a 30-minute yoga session. Therefore, you expend a mere two to three calories of energy by holding a given pose for 20-30 seconds. Yoga is not a high calorie-burning form of exercise, though it does have other benefits. Women want and deserve reputable “experts” who provide truthful information in the media.

Some exercise equipment is designed without consideration for women’s anatomy. I can tell which machines did not have design input from women. Machines that require the user to press her chest against a pad, such as the prone leg curl, can be uncomfortable. They should have an impression in the pad to allow space for women’s breasts. Machines that lack seat adjustments may be uncomfortable for shorter women. For example, some stationary bikes have seat height adjustments, but the seat cannot be moved closer to the handlebars. Some machines are too heavy by default for women who are petite or just building up their strength. For example, some calf-raise machines require a minimum lift of 20 pounds. Some gyms have a few lighter dumbbells (under 15 pounds) which is what the vast majority of women use. Yet, those gyms have numerous extremely heavy weights. Women want and deserve exercise equipment that addresses their needs.