CLEVELAND — Women who’ve been contemplating pharmacological solutions to the sometimes debilitating symptoms of menopause should look no further than their neighborhood gym for a solution, a new study from the North American Menopausal Society (NAMS) suggests.
At the behest of NAMS, a team of Spanish researchers led by Dr. Débora Godoy-Izquierdo, head of the psychology department at the University of Granada, recently examined the effects of regular exercise on 224 previously sedentary, post-menopausal women, ages 45-64.
The women, all of them volunteers, performed closely supervised exercise for 20 weeks and were tested with the Cervantes Scale, a “quality of life” health survey tool adapted to menopause sufferers.
Godoy-Izquierdo’s team also assessed the women’s ability to lower their body-mass index and to manage their menopausal symptoms, including “hot flashes” – sudden heat reactions and profuse sweating – that are strongly associated with the condition.
On average, the women reported feeling happier and more physically and mentally fit – with fewer hot flashes — as a result of the exercise program. (Their weight loss gains were more modest, however).
The results of the study were published in the journal Menopause.
The NAMS study is not the first to show that that exercise helps women deal with menopause.
Such studies have grown in recent years in response to demands from women for alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has potential side effects, including bloating, breast swelling and nausea, as well as an increased risk of breast and bone cancer, according to past studies.
However, many exercised-based studies, like NAMS’, also suffer from methodological weaknesses. The participants tend to be volunteers with a vested interest in the outcome. Self-reporting under these conditions may well be skewed in favor of positive responses.
The benefits of HRT and other standard menopause treatments are largely undisputed. HRT has been shown to eliminate hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms including chronic, insomnia dryness in the vagina, discomfort during sex, and a variety of mood disorders. And the most recent research suggests that the major health risks associated with HRT are said to be vastly overstated.
In fact, for severe menopausal sufferers – about 1 in 10 — HRT or newer non-hormonal drug treatments may be the only realistic path to lasting relief.
The upshot? If you’re passing through menopause, try everything that works — including more exercise.