Exercise at Menopause: A Critical Difference

Margaret Burghardt, MD


Medscape General Medicine. 1999;1(3) 

In This Article

Can Exercise Offset Impact of Estrogen Loss?

Physical activity, so vital to good health and well being, takes on even greater importance at menopause; as the ovaries shut down, a woman loses estrogen's protective effects against bone loss. The years surrounding the menopause, which occurs at an average age of 52, when a woman undergoes the transition from a reproductive to a postreproductive state, are termed the climacteric period. Regular exercise can prevent or lessen the impact of many of the changes women experience at this time. Exercise also can decrease morbidity and mortality after menopause by lowering a woman's risk of bone fracture.

Exercise can attenuate some of the effects of aging as well as the physical changes linked to a sedentary lifestyle. Regular physical activity can reduce the symptoms and risks of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, obesity, and other chronic diseases such as diabetes, which become more prevalent in the postmenopausal period.[1] There is some evidence that symptoms often associated with the hormonal changes of menopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia, and depression, can also be alleviated by exercise.[2] Despite the growing body of evidence for the benefits of exercise at any age, it is estimated that only 38% of females over the age of 19 exercise regularly.[3] The public health burden of inactivity, with its associations to coronary heart disease (CHD) and all-cause mortality, is high. All women should be encouraged to exercise regularly, and clinicians should reinforce the particular benefits of exercise to patients in their menopausal and postmenopausal years.