A new study has suggested that physical activity by menopausal women can help reduce a variety of psychological symptoms such as - anxiety, stress and depression.
The study, led by Deborah Nelson, Ph.D, a public health researcher at the Temple University, stated that by adding a brisk walking routine, women could ease menopausal symptoms.
"With the aging population, physical activity represents one way for women to stay mentally healthy. Physical activity can help throughout the menopausal transition and afterwards," said Nelson.
From 1996 to 1997, 380 women living in Philadelphia were recruited and were followed for more than eight years.
The women reported their physical activity level and menopausal symptoms including stress, anxiety, depression and hot flashes.
The average age at the beginning of the study was 42-years-old; 49 percent were African American, 58 percent reported more than a high school education, and 38 percent smoked cigarettes.
"We recruited African-American and Caucasian women living in Philadelphia for this study to better represent the large population of urban women. These results can be generalizable to both urban Caucasian and African-American women, groups of women that have been under-represented in previous studies," said Nelson.
In case of stress, the scientists found that high levels of physical activity were the most beneficial to postmenopausal women and African-American women as they reported lower levels of perceived stress than those who did not exercise. This top-tier group walked at a moderate pace for an hour and a half at least five times a week.
However, the study did not show that exercise reduced physical symptoms such as hot flashes.
"Physical symptoms like hot flashes will go away when you reach menopause, but mental health is something women still need to think about post-menopause," Nelson said.
The middle tier walked five times a week for 40 minutes and the bottom group, considered the non-exercisers, walked for 15 minutes about five times a week.
"In the urban setting, these women walked outside on city blocks or in shopping malls. Groups could organize to take walks after dinner. It didn't require going to the gym," Nelson said.
"You don't have to run 20 miles a week to reap the benefits of exercise. If you stick to a moderate-paced walking schedule, it can keep your body mass index down and lower the risk of stress, anxiety and depression," she added.
The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.