According to a recent health study, physically active menopausal women are likely to experience fewer hot flashes during the 24 hours that followed their physical activity.
Menopause is the state of absence of menstruation for a period of 12 months in a woman. It is a natural phenomenon and usually occurs within the ages of 45 and 55 years. During this time, the ovaries cease to function, and stop producing the vital hormones, particularly estrogen. Surgical removal of uterus and ovaries, chemotherapy and premature ovarian failure are some of the other reasons for menopause.
AdvertisementSymptoms of menopause include irregular bleeding, hot flashes, night sweats, itchiness and dryness of the vagina, urinary infection, urinary incontinence, emotional problems, memory loss, weight gain and wrinkled skin. Osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease are some of the health complications of menopause. Menopause symptoms are usually treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or oral contraceptive pills.
According to Steriani Elavsky, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Penn State, women who are overweight or obese or, women who lead sedentary are likely to suffer increasingly from perceptions of hot flashes. Here, it must be noted that perceived hot flashes do not always tally with the actual ones. The present study attempted to analyze objective versus subjective hot flashes and observe the effect exercise had on them.
Elavsky and colleagues studied 92 menopausal women for a duration of 15 days. The sample population included women with mild-to-moderate post menopausal symptoms between the ages of 40-59 years, and who were not on HRT. These women also had two children on an average.
"We recruited women residing in the community. We used recruitment sources that included a variety of outlets in the community frequented by women, such as libraries, fairs, gyms, advertisements in local newspapers, etc," Elavsky said.
The participants were given accelerometers to have their physical activities monitored. They also had to wear monitors that measured skin conductance, which changed with the level of the moisture content. Each participant recorded the hot flashes she experienced throughout the 15-day study on a personal digital assistant.
The hot flashes were recorded in an objective way and in a subjective way. Objective hot flashes were recorded by the monitor and the subjective ones were recorded by the women themselves based on their perception. If both these were recorded within five minutes of each other, it qualified as a "true positive" hot flash.
"Some physiological explanations would suggest that performing physical activity could increase hot flashes because it acutely increases body core temperature," said Elavsky.
However, the study found that this theory was not true, as on an average basis, the subjects of the study experienced fewer hot flash symptoms after they had exercised ; this reduction in symptoms was least experienced by those women who were overweight, having a low fitness level or those who were experiencing more frequent or more intense hot flashes.
The idea that women could combine diet with exercise to experience fewer hot flashes is a theory worthy of future research, the researchers noted.
"For women with mild to moderate hot flashes, there is no reason to avoid physical activity for the fear of making symptoms worse," said Elavsky. "In fact, physical activity may be helpful, and is certainly the best way to maximize health as women age. Becoming and staying active on a regular basis as part of your lifestyle is the best way to ensure healthy aging and well being, regardless of whether you experience hot flashes or not."
This information must motivate all women who have crossed their forties to don their trekking shoes and walk their way to a fitter and healthier life!
Elavsky et al. Effects of physical activity on vasomotor symptoms: examination using objective and subjective measures. Menopause (June issue) 2012.