Aerobic Exercise May Cut Menopausal Symptoms


Major Finding: Six months of 70-minute aerobic exercise sessions three days per week significantly reduced the severity of menopausal symptoms while improving physical fitness.

Data Source: An uncontrolled study in 65 postmenopausal women.

Disclosures: None reported.

Postmenopausal women improved their physical fitness and reported reductions in the severity of menopausal symptoms after 12–24 weeks of aerobic exercise in three 70-minute sessions per week.

The 65 women (mean age, 50.1 years) rated the severity of menopausal symptoms on the self-administered Menopause Rating Scale questionnaire at baseline, 12 weeks, and 24 weeks in the uncontrolled study. The program of aerobic and calisthenic exercise aimed for 75%–80% of maximal heart rate according to the Karvonen method and consisted of 10 minutes of warm-up exercises; 40 minutes of aerobics; 15 minutes of exercise targeting the abdomen, hip, and leg muscles; and 5 minutes for cooldown and stretching.

Participants reported significant decreases in the severity of hot flushes, night sweats, cardiac symptoms, muscle and joint pain, sleeping disorder symptoms, depressive mood, irritability, anxiety, exhaustion, sexual problems, and urinary symptoms between the start and end of the study, Dr. Selma Karacan of Selcuk University in Konya, Turkey, reported (Sci. Sports 2009 [doi:10.1016/j.scispo.2009.07.004]).

Some of the symptoms showed improvement by 12 weeks and further significant improvements by 24 weeks, including vasomotor symptoms, muscle and joint pain, psychological symptoms, and sexual problems. The women reported no significant change in vaginal dryness.

Significant improvements also were seen in resting heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, flexibility, aerobic power, and the ability to perform sit-ups, push-ups, and right or left hand grips. Body weight, body mass index, body fat percentage, and fat weight decreased significantly, with no change in lean body mass values.

The findings support results from previous observational studies of physically active postmenopausal women compared with age-matched, sedentary control women. No randomized controlled trials have looked at the efficacy of exercise in managing hot flushes.

The current study suggests that a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness may help reduce menopausal symptoms, Dr. Karacan concluded.

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