Exercise at Menopause: A Critical Difference

Margaret Burghardt, MD


Medscape General Medicine. 1999;1(3) 

In This Article

Exercise Improves Mood, Reduces Stress

Body composition changes and weight gain can contribute to a lower sense of well-being in menopausal women. A study by Guthrie and coworkers[1] of women aged 45 to 55 years found that levels of physical activity were significantly associated with better self-rated health and lower body mass index measurements. Exercise is known to improve mood and decrease stress. Several studies note that increased levels of stress are associated with an exacerbation of menstrual and menopausal symptoms, which in turn may reduce the inclination to exercise.[6]

Frequently cited secondary symptoms of menopause include irritability, depression, mood change, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, and headache. Some of these symptoms may be lessened by regular physical activity, with its mood-elevating and stress-lowering properties. Women of menopausal age who had the greatest increases in activity over a 3-year period also reported the smallest increases in symptoms of stress and depression.[10] Although some studies suggest that exercise may have a positive impact on indices of psychological well-being, confounding factors may affect the results.[11] Women may decrease stress and depression with exercise but, inversely, the depressed woman is less likely to initiate or maintain a regular exercise program. The most frequent reason given for not exercising is lack of motivation, which may result from or be preceded by stress or depression. It is important to consider each woman's situation individually and to promote the overall benefits of exercise.