Review on October 17, 2008
A new study on the effects of exercise on menopause symptoms highlights the tremendous benefits of moderate exercise before, during and after menopause. While most of us know that exercise confers numerous benefits, this new study adds menopause symptoms to the laundry list of exercise's advantages. Read on to learn more about this study, discover strategies to help incorporate exercise into your life, and how to combine exercise with other treatments to effectively reduce menopause symptoms.
A team of researchers at Temple University followed 380 women for 8 years (from pre-menopause on) to gauge the effect of exercise on their experience of the menopause symptoms. During the study, these women routinely provided blood samples and reported their anxiety, depression, stress, and menopause symptoms (including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and loss of libido). These women also noted their physical activity, down to activities that might not be considered a "workout" such as climbing the stairs to work.
The researchers found that the women divided into three activity levels. The first, most active group, walked for about 1.5 hours at least 5 times a week. The moderately active group walked about 40 minutes five times a week. The less active women walked for 15 minutes about five times per week.
Results indicated that women in the two most active groups showed a much better ability to manage stress, a trigger common to virtually all of the menopause symptoms. They also showed markedly lower levels of irritability, anxiety, and depression as they entered the menopausal transition. Physical menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, did not appear to be affected by exercise levels.
While everyone understands that adding exercise to one's daily routine is beneficial it can be hard to know how to begin, particularly when life gets busy and it seems that nothing else can be packed into the day. But doing so can greatly reduce stress and menopause symptoms associated with mood.
Here are a few ideas that work for many women. Increasing one's exercise can help to relieve many menopause symptoms, especially combined with other self care and natural therapies.
- Wake up early. Get up 30 minutes earlier than you normally do and use the extra time to walk on your treadmill or take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
- Make household chores count. Do housework or outdoor work fast enough to get your heart pumping.
- Be active while watching TV. Use hand weights, ride a stationary bike or stretch during your favorite shows.
- Involve the whole family. Take group walks before or after dinner. Play catch. Ride bikes.
- Bring the dog. Walking the dog can be a great motivator.not to mention great companionship.Get social. Other's encouragement may be just the trick. Try dance lessons, a hiking group, a golf league, or a team sport.
- Join a fitness club.
- Plan active leisure time. Hike with a friend in a local park or take a family trip to the zoo.
- Be active while running errands. When you go to the mall or grocery store, park toward the back and walk the extra distance.
- Make the most of your commute. Walk or bike to work. If you ride the bus, get off a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way.
- Take the stairs whenever you can.Take fitness breaks at work whenever possible.
- Start a lunchtime walking group with your co-workers.
- Schedule physical activity like you do with other important engagements.
As these researchers noted, exercise alone cannot prevent or treat physical symptoms of menopause. Fortunately, fitness can be combined with natural treatments to target all menopause symptoms. Please click the links below to learn more about the best way to treat menopause symptoms.
- Anne Kendall, M.D., clinical research fellow, breast and biochemistry unit, Royal Marsden Hospital, London, England; Jay Brooks, M.D., chairman, hematology/oncology, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Baton Rouge, La.; Jan. 26, 2006, Annals of Oncology.
- Hayes, Daniel F. M.D. "Follow-up of Patients with Early Breast Cancer." http://content.nejm.org
- "Hormone therapy: Is it right for you?" mayoclinic.com.