Purpose: To determine whether physical activity, measured by expended kilocalories per week (kcal·wk−1), decreases the risk of menopausal symptoms among African American and Caucasian women.
Methods: Level of physical activity and menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, depression, anxiety, stress, and vasomotor, physiological, and somatic symptom summaries were measured in 401 women during an 8-yr period. Tertiles of physical activity at each assessment were defined as kilocalories per week: top third (≥ 1450 kcal·wk−1), middle third (< 1450 to 644 kcal·wk−1), and bottom third (< 644 kcal·wk−1). Regression models were used to estimate the independent effect of physical activity at each time period on menopausal symptoms after adjusting for covariates and hormone levels. Results were also stratified by race, smoking status, and menopausal status.
Results: Overall, only perceived stress was related to level of physical activity, with women in both the middle and top tertiles of physical activity reporting lower mean levels of stress compared with women in the lowest tertile of activity. In the analysis by menopausal stage, active postmenopausal women continued to report lower mean levels of anxiety, stress, and depressive symptoms compared with inactive postmenopausal women. We did not find an association between level of physical activity and reports of hot flashes, even after adjusting for the variability in the hormonal changes.
Conclusions: Among a cohort of community-dwelling women, high levels of physical activity were related to lower levels of stress during an 8-yr follow-up period. In addition, levels of anxiety, stress, and depression were lowest among physically active postmenopausal women compared with inactive women in the same menopausal grouping.