In a small study of Finnish women who had recently entered menopause, those who stuck to an aerobic exercise program for six months were less likely to report night sweats, mood swings, and irritability than women who didn't exercise.
The study's authors say their results suggest exercise could serve as an alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for quelling bothersome menopause symptoms.
"I would recommend physical activity. I think that among all the options out there that it's probably the best thing for health and also symptoms of aging," said Steriani Elavsky, a professor at Penn State University, who was not involved in the new research.
In the years just after a woman reaches menopause, up to 80 percent may experience some or all of the most typical symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats, sleep disturbances, headache, depression, irritability, urinary problems, and vaginal dryness.
Estrogen-based therapy can ease those symptoms, but concerns about health risks associated with the hormones have led many women and their physicians to shy away from that treatment.
Though not all studies have agreed, some earlier work has shown that exercise can help as well.
Dr. Riitta Luoto at the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research in Tampere, Finland, and her colleagues found in a previous study that exercises helped to reduce the number of hot flashes women experienced.
In the latest study, published in the journal Menopause, the same team looked at other symptoms of menopause.
The researchers randomly assigned 74 recently menopausal women aged 45 to 63, all of whom were experiencing symptoms, to exercise 50 minutes a day, four days a week for 24 weeks. A comparison group of 77 women attended health lectures instead.
For the exercise group, at least two of the sessions each week had to involve walking, while the other two could include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, or other activities.
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