Physical activity helps ease menopause symptoms

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Physical activity may help ease symptoms and increase quality of life during menopause, according to a new study.

image of Steriani Elavsky"The surprising aspect of the study is the fact that we found a significant association between changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and changes in menopausal symptoms," said lead author Steriani Elavsky, assistant professor of kinesiology at Penn State. "This is contrary to other studies, which previously reported no associations."

One hundred sixty-four sedentary menopausal women were randomly ssigned to a walking program, a yoga program or a control group that did no additional exercise for four months. The women who walked or took yoga classes reported a better quality of life and reduced negative effects of menopause compared to the no-exercise group.

The women who walked or took yoga classes reported improvements in mood and menopause-related quality of life compared to the no-exercise group. The women, whose average age was nearly 50, completed body composition and fitness assessments along with a battery of psychological tests at the beginning and end of the study, which appears in the April issue of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Walking was chosen because it is an aerobic activity, while yoga was chosen because it is not aerobic, said Elavsky, assistant professor of kinesiology.

The results showed that both walking and yoga were effective at enhancing quality of life. Whether menopausal symptoms improved or worsened appeared to be determined by increases or decreases in cardiorespiratory fitness. Women who experienced decreases in menopausal symptoms in the study also experienced improvements in all positive mental health and quality of life outcomes.

About 1.5 million American women reach menopause each year, at an average age of 52, and 80 percent to 85 percent experience unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, anxiety or emotional instability.

Elavsky S, McAuley E. Physical activity and mental health outcomes during menopause: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Behav Med 33(2), 2007.

By Health Behavior News Service

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Editors:  For additional information, please contact Abby Diehl, director of alumni and college relations for the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, at (814) 863-2207 or abbyd@psu.edu.