Physiological Aspects of Women in Combat
D. Libster, Y. Heled, Y. Shapiro, Y. Epstein
IDF Institute of Military Physiology and Heller Institute for Medical Research, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer
Since military service is physically demanding, soldiers must maintain high levels of physical fitness for optimal performance of their duties. Women are at a physiological disadvantage when competing against men: they have a smaller muscle mass, more body fat, lower red blood cell counts, lower hemoglobin levels and smaller cardiac outputs. Women are slower and weaker than men and more prone to exercise-induced skeletal injuries. Fewer women than men meet the standards of physically demanding jobs. Therefore integrating women into physically demanding military-oriented jobs requires redesigning or modifying the tasks (different pace, mechanical aids, teamwork). While physical training can increase the physical capacity of women, training cannot completely eliminate gender differences. Thus the data presented do not imply that women cannot be integrated into combat units, but highlight gender-related differences which might have an effect on the ability of women to compete equally with men at the same task.