Walking may ease some burdens of menopause

Walking for 45 minutes a few times a week may help women in the “battle of the bulge” that often accompanies menopause, and at the same time improve overall well being, hints new research from Canada.

Pointing out that the 45 minutes can be broken up into shorter jaunts, researcher Dr. Pascale Mauriège, of Quebec’s Laval University, told Reuters Health in an email it’s a program that could be “easily incorporated” into a woman’s daily life.

The researchers wanted to know if a 16-week walking program would help older overweight inactive women lose some weight, increase their lean body mass and experience a better health-related quality of life.

They enrolled 35 moderately obese and sedentary white women who were either nearing menopause or newly post-menopausal. Thirty women finished the program - 16 premenopausal and 14 postmenopausal.

The women, guided by trainers, walked for 45 minutes on an indoor track every other day for 16 weeks. The intensity of the walking was not unlike the intensity of walking a dog, Mauriège said. While moderately obese, all participants were healthy.

Of the five participants who dropped out of the study early, three bristled at the program’s restrictions and wanted to walk more than three days a week.

At the beginning of the study, post and premenopausal women tended to have similar health-related quality of life ratings on such things as body pain, health, vitality, physical and social functioning and emotional and mental health.

At the end of the program, both groups of women appeared to benefit physically and mentally although in different ways, the researchers report in the journal Menopause.

Greater weight loss was achieved by the premenopausal women who lost an average of about 4.4 pounds compared to 1.5 pounds for the postmenopausal women. They also tended to lose more fat mass. Postmenopausal women, however, tended to benefit with a larger drop in their waist size and from gains in lean body mass.

The program also appeared to have a “non-negligible impact” on both groups’ sense of physical and mental well being, the researchers report.

Postmenopausal women had the larger gains in health-related quality of life scores in bodily pain, daily physical functioning, general health, emotional and mental health while premenopausal women had the greater gains in all physical activities of life, vitality and social functioning.

Mauriège said, to her knowledge, this is the first study to test the impact of a walking program on the various mental functioning scores in pre- and postmenopausal women.

But the study’s small size and lack of a control group (a group of women similar to participants who did not take part in the study’s exercise regimen) limits the validity of the findings.

Still, the findings do suggest that “moderate-intensity and moderate-frequency exercise” easily integrated in life habits seems to be enough to improve health-related quality of life in both premenopausal and early postmenopausal women, the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Menopause, April 2010.

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