Despite all of the Edith-directed menopause-related laugh lines of All In The Family (a reference many readers may be too young to understand), menopausal symptoms are no joke – especially when they are severe. And, now there’s evidence that exercise might help to limit them for some women.
In fact, evidence appears to indicate that women who are relatively inactive or are overweight or obese tend to have an increased risk of symptoms perceived as “hot flashes,” according to Steriani Elavsky, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Penn State University.
While some readers will object, “There’s nothing perceived about them; they’re as real as can be,” “perceived hot flashes” do not always correspond to actual hot flashes.
And Professor Elavsky’s research may be the first study to look at “objective” versus “subjective” hot flashes.
The Penn State researchers studied 92 menopausal women for 15 days. “Our sample included women with mild to moderate symptoms and they were recruited for a study of physical activity, not of menopause,” noted Elavsky. The researchers recruited women – ages 40 to 59 years old, with an average of two children, who were not on hormone therapy – from the community through a variety of outlets frequented by women – libraries, gyms and advertisements in local newspapers.
In the analysis process, participants were divided into normal weight and overweight/obese categories and higher fit and lower fit categories; the categories were not mutually exclusive. Participants wore accelerometers to measure their physical activity and monitors that measured skin conductance, which varies with the moisture level of the skin. Using personal digital assistants, participants recorded the individual hot flashes they experienced throughout the 15-day period. This data collecting combination allowed researchers to study the frequency of objective – recorded by the monitors – and subjective – reported by the individual — hot flashes. When a recorded and a reported hot flash occurred within five minutes of each other it was considered a “true positive.”
Contrary to the popular false myth that performing physical activity could increase hot flashes because it acutely increases body core temperature, researchers found that on average women in the study experienced fewer hot flash symptoms after exercising.
The researchers noted that it is not yet possible to determine if a woman could use diet and exercise and become more physically fit as a means of experiencing fewer hot flashes; that remains a topic for future studies.
However, “For women with mild to moderate hot flashes, there is no reason to avoid physical activity for the fear of making symptoms worse,” noted Elavsky. “In fact, physical activity may be helpful and is certainly the best way to maximize health as women age. Becoming and staying active on a regular basis as part of your lifestyle is the best way to ensure healthy aging and well-being, regardless of whether you experience hot flashes or not.”
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
Brain Training Centers of Florida, through brain wave optimization with real time balancing, can be very helpful to individuals experiencing hot flash issues. Our Centers are open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM for the convenience of our clients. For further information, please call (305) 412-5050.