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Exercise and menopause

Only about 38 percent of women over age 19 exercise regularly. But fitness and exercise are critical in the menopausal years, when a woman is at a dramatically increased risk for osteoporosis and fracture, heart disease, and chronic diseases such as diabetes....

menopause exerciseFrom age 35, women lose bone mass at a rate of about 0.75 percent to 1 percent per year, and the loss increases to 2 percent to 3 percent per year at menopause, most markedly from the lumbar spine. One study of menopausal women showed an increase in lumbar spine bone mineral density (BMD) of 3.5 percent in women who exercised, whereas BMD in the controls decreased 2.7 percent. This suggests that exercise can inhibit or reverse osteoporosis associated with aging. Even in the elderly woman, exercise can attenuate certain effects of aging and sedentary lifestyles.

Regular exercise may decrease the incidence and severity of hot flashes, which occur in 75 percent of menopausal women. In one study, aerobic training reduced the severity of hot flashes in 55 percent of post-menopausal women.

In another study, researchers in Spain studied 48 women between 55 and 72 years of age, dividing them into two groups to allow comparison. One group took part in an exercise regime of stretching, strengthening and relaxation for 3 hours a week for a year, while the other group maintained a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Their physical and mental health and general wellbeing was assessed before and after the twelve month study.

The results showed that the women who adopted the active lifestyle had improved health and wellbeing and also reported fewer menopausal problems. In fact, severe menopausal problems decreased by 13 per cent among the exercisers, whilst it increased by 8 per cent in the sedentary group.

Weight-bearing exercise can reduce a woman's risk of fractures. Cardiovascular effects of exercise are also dramatic, as studies have shown that pre-menopausal women who are more physically active and gain less weight have lower elevations of LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides than their heavier, less active counterparts.

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