Why To Exercise Today: Minimizing 'Menopause Misery'

A new report suggests a path toward reducing "menopause misery": Give up your sedentary lifestyle.

A paper — titled “Sedentary lifestyle in middle-aged women is associated with severe menopausal symptoms and obesity,” and published online in the journal Menopause — looks at more than 6,000 women across Latin America ages 40-59. Researchers found that compared to active women, sedentary women (who made up about 63 percent of participants) reported more “severe” menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, joint pain, depressed mood and anxiety and other symptoms like sex problems, vaginal dryness and bladder problems.

Sedentary lifestyle was self-reported (always a possible red flag in a study like this) as less than three 30-minute sessions of physical activity per week; activities included walking, biking, running, jogging, swimming or working out.

From the news release:

The study analyzed data from the Collaborative Group for Research of the Climacteric in Latin America surveys and health records of 6,079 women ... who attended one of 20 urban health centers in 11 Latin American countries. The women completed standard questionnaires about depression, anxiety, insomnia, and menopause symptoms. Symptoms on the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS) questionnaire include somatic symptoms ... and urogenital symptoms... The women also answered other questions, such as what their activity level and menopause status were.

JoAnn Pinkerton, M.D., executive director of the North American Menopause Society, and not involved in the study, said that being sedentary carries with it all sorts of health risks far beyond menopausal symptoms — from heart disease to some types of cancer. But, she notes, regular exercise can relieve "menopause misery," and more. In an email, she adds:

Other studies have shown that being active whether women choose gardening, yoga, walking, biking or swimming at least 30 minutes a day improves menopausal symptoms... Being sedentary is bad for your health, physical and mental. Being active every day not only will help you have less severe menopausal symptoms, but it improves mood, coping, and has health benefits as well.

I encourage women including myself to add activity to our days, every day, whenever and however we can. Don’t wait til Saturday or the days you can go to the gym. If you are in your 40s and looking towards menopause, avoid the 12-15 pounds that most women gain by increasing your activity level now.

To be fit and strong after menopause requires women to gradually increase the amount of time and intensity of exercise to get most benefit.

For more inspiration, read Carey's excellent piece in "My Menopause" on getting her "yum" back in middle age through exercise.

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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