Severity of Menopause Symptoms Linked to Sedentary Lifestyle

Diana Phillips

February 01, 2016

Middle-aged women who exercise fewer than three times per week report more severe menopause symptoms than those who get more exercise, a study has shown. They are also significantly more likely to be obese, researchers report in an article published online January 19 in Menopause.

Juan E. Blümel, MD, PhD, from the University of Chile in Santiago, and colleagues reviewed data from the Collaborative Group for Research of the Climacteric in Latin America surveys and the health records of more than 6000 women aged 40 to 59 years who received care at urban health clinics across 11 Latin American countries.

Study participants completed standard questionnaires about their menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, joint pain, depressed mood, anxiety, and insomnia. They also provided information about their physical activity level, indicating how many times per week they engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity, such as walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming.

Of the respondents, 63.9% reported a sedentary lifestyle (fewer than three weekly sessions of physical activity), and of these, 16.1% more severe menopausal symptoms, as indicated by higher total and subscale scores, including individual item ratings, on the Menopause Rating Scale. In comparison, only 10.6% (P < .0001) of their active counterparts reported severe symptoms. The sedentary women also had more depressive symptoms, greater anxiety, and more insomnia.

The prevalence of obesity was significantly higher among the sedentary women, at 20.9%, than in the active group, at 14.3%, and their mean waist circumference was significantly greater, the authors write.

"Our results support reports that highlight the positive impact of physical activity on menopausal symptoms," the authors write, noting that the effect could be a result of the actions of estrogen and physical activity on the brain.

With respect to the obesity association, the greater proportion of abdominal obesity in the sedentary group is particularly notable, according to the authors. "This increased waist circumference is of significance since it is associated with higher mortality even in women displaying a [body mass index] less than 25 kg/m2," they explain. The association between sedentary lifestyle and obesity appears to be not only related to energy expenditure because of physical activity, they note, "but to the fact that both processes could be jointly regulated at the central nervous system level."

Although the analysis demonstrates an association between physical activity and menopausal symptoms, the authors stress that the cross-sectional study design "does not allow us to conclude if physical activity reduces menopausal symptoms or if menopausal symptoms reduce physical activity."

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Menopause. Published online January 19, 2016. Abstract


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.