Women With Low Levels of Physical Activity Can Experience Severe Menopause: Study

Menopause is the natural suspension, of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which marks the end of fertility. In most cases, women experience menopause by the age of 52, but pelvic or ovarian damage may cause sudden menopause earlier in life.

A study published online on Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found that development of menopause symptoms can be alleviated with sufficient volume and intensity of physical activity.

Menopause is the natural suspension, of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which marks the end of fertility. In most cases, women experience menopause by the age of 52. However, pelvic or ovarian damage may cause sudden menopause early in life. Genetics or underlying conditions may also be a reason for an early onset of menopause.

The symptoms of menopause may also arise as a result of radiotherapy to the pelvic field, surgical removal of the ovaries, or systemic chemotherapy. When such procedures occur in pre-menopausal or peri-menopausal women, they often result in sudden and sometimes irreversible menopause that is accompanied by more frequent and severe menopause symptoms.

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Various cancer-treating c therapies, such as the use of tamoxifen, can also amplify symptoms, especially hot flashes.

The study involved nearly 300 women to investigate the association between self-reported physical activity and menopause symptoms. In addition, the researchers evaluated whether intervention targeting lifestyle behavior could improve changes in physical activity levels and menopause symptoms.

Results suggest that menopause symptoms are less severe in women with medium to high levels of physical activity than in women with low levels of such activity. The intervention, however, was not determined to play a role in increasing physical activity in women being treated for breast, reproductive, or blood cancers.

Although this was not the first study to examine the association of physical activity with menopause symptoms, it was the first to look specifically at the volume and intensity of physical activity. Severe menopause symptoms, including poor mental well-being, are associated with a sedentary lifestyle and low physical activity, even in women experiencing natural menopause.

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Researchers of the current study additionally found that women being treated for breast cancer, for example, experience worse menopause symptoms, and are less likely to engage in health-promoting behaviors. On the basis of study results, researchers suggest that an increased focus on exercise training should be part of the long-term maintenance program for women after cancer treatment.

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The results were published in the article ‘Physical activity and menopausal symptoms in women who have received menopause-inducing cancer treatments: results from the Women’s Wellness After Cancer Program.’

Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director said, “This study highlights some of the many known benefits of exercise in women with or without cancer. Although the exercise was not associated with less bothersome hot flashes, findings consistent with prior studies, it may help with other menopause symptoms, including mood and sleep disturbances.”

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