The ‘battle of the sexes’ has pitched men against women for thousands of years, usually with the connotation that women provide the brains and men the brawn.
Sensational contests include Billie Jean King defeating Bobby Riggs in three sets, Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton in one election and Girls Aloud beating One True voice with ‘sound of the underground’ to clinch the top spot in the Christmas chart of 2002.
But a new study suggests that the notion that females aren't physically as capable is outdated, and that with the right training, women are in fact just as tough as men.
After testing a group of six British female soldiers who trekked across Antarctica, researchers found that they showed no more negative health effects than would be expected in men.
The all-women team underwent extreme physical preparation for their expedition, and once on the ice, spent 62 days battling high winds and low temperatures to trek 1,056 miles while dragging sledges loaded with supplies and equipment weighing 80kg.
They were the first ever all-female team to complete the journey.
The study is the first to suggest that women are not more susceptible to the negative effects of physical exertion and, that with appropriate training and preparation, can be as resilient as men in undertaking arduous physical activity.
Research conducted by Dr Robert Gifford from the University of Glasgow and scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Centre for Defence, monitored several markers of their health before and after the successful expedition.
These included indicators of stress, reproductive and metabolic hormone levels, body weight and bone strength.
The findings, presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Glasgow, indicated not only that markers of reproductive function and bone strength were preserved, but that some markers showed evidence of delayed, exercise-related benefit to their physical fitness two weeks after the expedition.
Dr Gifford said, “Our findings contain some potentially myth-busting data on the impact of extreme physical activity on women. We have shown that with appropriate training and preparation, many of the previously reported negative health effects can be avoided.
Speaking at the Defence Medical Innovation Conference in Birmingham, Major Natalie Taylor said of the group’s efforts: "We did very well.
"Physiologically we coped very well, so our bones were as strong as we left. Our hormones, there was a little dip but within two weeks our hormones were back to normal which is really good.
"We also found that we lost fat, not lean mass. We didn’t lose any kind of muscle. Which is good because that’s what we gained before we went.”
The findings come on the back of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announcing last month that all roles in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, including frontline infantry units and the SAS, are now open to female recruits.
Next year, after preliminary fitness tests and interviews, up to 20 women are expected to undertake the gruelling 32-week training course at the Royal Marines commando training centre in Lympstone, Devon.
The recruits will train to exactly the same standards as their male colleagues and aim to serve as a regular Royal Marine.
Commenting on the findings by Dr Gifford, Lieutenant General Martin Bricknell, Surgeon General, told Forces News: "What this allows us to do is conduct research that is militarily relevant.
"The findings help understand the strengths and vulnerabilities in each gender and then make sure we as an employer can give everybody the best opportunity in their role, independent of gender.
"This is just one bit of science that allows us to understand that women have many strengths compared to men."
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson called Major Nicola Wetherill, Major Natalie Taylor, Captain Zanna Baker, Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson and reservists Major Sandy Hennis and Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne “trailblazing” and “formidable.”
“They are an inspiration to us all and are role models to young people across the country.
“They truly demonstrate why the British Armed Forces are the best in the world, and show that with hard work, courage, and determination anything is possible.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence added: “Women have already given exemplary service in recent conflicts, working in a variety of highly specialised and vital roles.
“By opening all combat roles to women, we will continue to build on these successes and improve the operational capability of our military.”