Women — the efficient exercisers

Took in part of a major fitness convention across the street from CBC's Toronto headquarters today. Can-Fit-Pro was formed in 1993 as a national organization for Canadian fitness professionals.

The folks you paid your gym membership to are probably members. So are a lot of sports therapists and fitness instructors.

Never seen so many fit people under one roof. My old insecurities started creeping back as I half expected somebody to tap me on the shoulder to suggest that I might feel more at home lined up by one of the chip wagons in front of the building.

Had trouble deciding between taking in the Jump Rope Certification or the Power Eating III sessions. So — middle-aged guy that I am — I opted instead for something called Step-Tease, half-hoping that it would negate my need for a second jolt of early morning caffeine. It didn't.

I shouldn't have been surprised when I wandered into Weight Management for Women that the room would be overflowing, mostly with people who seemed to easily manage their weight. Many were professionals, there to hear Dr. Len Kravitz, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico — and a highly popular speaker at these types of events.

Kravitz has researched exercise for more than two decades. And what he's learned should make women smile.

He began by citing some stats from the U.S. National Weight Control Registry which showed that — over the long term — the people who were most successful at losing weight and keeping it off, considered exercise to be a meaningful part of their schedule. They made sure it was part of their routine. An average of 250 minutes per week. That's about 35 minutes every day.

And most ate a proper breakfast.

Women, he continued, are more efficient exercisers than men. It's because of the way they are built. Men have more muscle mass than women. Muscles need oxygen for optimum performance. The harder you work, the more oxygen you need. If you can't deliver enough oxygen to those muscles, you begin to fatigue.

Women, with less muscle mass, need less oxygen. They don't fatigue as quickly.

More good news: you don't have to exercise really, really hard to get fit. Eighty per cent of your exercise, Kravitz said, should be low intensity, long duration. It's the most efficient way to burn fat.

For instance, if you run, it doesn't matter if you run a mile in six minutes or 10 minutes. You will still burn about 100 calories. You want to burn more calories? Put in more miles — at a nice relaxed pace. And watch the guys burn themselves out.