Walking, yoga may help during menopause

Moderate exercise like walking and yoga may make the transition through menopause a little easier, new research suggests.

The study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, included 164 sedentary women who’d been suffering hot flashes, night sweats and other menopausal symptoms. Researchers found that starting them on a regular exercise routine, whether it was walking or taking yoga classes, seemed to boost the women’s emotional well-being.

There was no clear evidence that either form of exercise eased hot flashes or other specific menopause symptoms. But both walking and yoga gave the women an emotional lift and improved how they rated their quality of life.

After 4 months, women in both groups reported higher levels of general happiness than a comparison group of non-exercisers. They also reported gains in “menopause-related quality of life,” which gauged their feelings about their physical health, emotional well-being and sex life.

“I would definitely recommend exercise to enhance psychological well-being,” said Dr. Steriani Elavsky, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University and the study’s lead author.

More research is needed to see whether walking, yoga or other forms of exercise can diminish specific menopause symptoms like hot flashes and sleep problems, according to Elavsky. Some studies have found that, because exercise raises body temperature, it can actually promote hot flashes in the short term, she told Reuters Health.

However, Elavsky’s team found that while neither walking nor yoga were clearly linked to improved menopause symptoms, those women who were able to boost their cardiovascular fitness during the study period did report fewer symptoms.

This is “encouraging,” Elavsky said, because fitness is something women can change - by consistently performing activities that get the heart rate up.

SOURCE: Annals of Behavioral Medicine, April 2007.

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