If you are a woman and remain physically active up to and during the menopause, symptoms such as anxiety, depression and stress may be eased as a result of your physically active lifestyle, according to an article published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (MSSE).

In this study, Deborah Nelson, Ph.D., Temple University, and team wanted to find out whether physical activity reduced the risk of menopausal symptoms among Caucasian and African American women. Physical activity was measured according to how many calories each person expended weekly in the form of exercise.

The researchers explain that previous studies that looked at the impact exercise might have on menopausal symptoms had come up with mixed results.

401 women were monitored. Their levels of physical activity, as well as menopausal symptoms – hot flashes, depression, anxiety, stress, as well as vasomotor, physiological, and somatic symptoms – were measured. The monitoring took place during a period of eight years. 380 women completed the required 10 follow-up visits. They were aged 35-47, half were Caucasian while the other half were African American. Thirty-eight percent of them smoked.

During the first 5 years monitoring took place every nine months. During the last 3 years there was one follow-up each year. They were divided into three groups, depending on how many calories they burnt each week in the form of exercise.

— Top third group burned at least 1,450 kcal per week in the form of exercise
— Middle third group burned between 644-1449 kcal per week in the form of exercise
— Bottom third group burned less than 644 kcal per week in the form of exercise

The women in the top two-thirds of physical activity experienced less stress (perceived) than the women in the bottom third.

The 66% most active women (the top two thirds) experienced less perceived stress than the other 33% of women (the bottom third group). In fact, it became clear that exercise had a significant impact in reducing a post-menopausal woman’s chances of experiencing hot flashes, depression, anxiety and stress. They did not detect any difference in vasomotor, physiological, and somatic symptoms between the most and least active women.

The researchers stressed that the data they collected was self-reported. In other words, the participants told them about their symptoms, rather than having a health care professional diagnose them.

“Effect of Physical Activity on Menopausal Symptoms among Urban Women”
Nelson, Deborah B, Sammel, Mary D, Freeman, Ellen W, Lin, Hui 5, Gracia, Clarisa R, Schmitz, Kathryn H.
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2008
Click here to view Abstract online

Written by – Christian Nordqvist