Exercise at Menopause: A Critical Difference

Margaret Burghardt, MD


Medscape General Medicine. 1999;1(3) 

In This Article

Modifying Cardiovascular Disease Risks

Exercise has direct effects on the cardiovascular system by increasing oxygen delivery and utilization, and by decreasing the risk of ventricular arrhythmogenicity of the heart and the overall risk of sudden cardiac death. The indirect effects of exercise in modifying CHD risk factors may actually be the most important factor in diminishing CHD risk. For example, exercise is associated with decreased body weight and percent body fat in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.[9]

Wing and coworkers[7] found that weight gain in women aged 42 to 50 years old is directly linked to increasing CHD risk factors. Exercise can lead to a decrease in abdominal fat, although the effect is more pronounced in males than in females.[38] Abdominal obesity is mainly attributed to inactivity and is related to CHD risk.[39] The hyperinsulinemia, glucose intolerance, and, often, hypertension associated with abdominal obesity combine to increase the risk of CAD. In addition to decreasing obesity, exercise improves fasting insulin levels and glucose tolerance in the non-insulin-dependent diabetic.[35] Femoral fat does not show the same link with CHD. Femoral fat stores are more prevalent in women and are relatively more resistant to exercise.[38]