Effect of Physical Activity on Menopausal Symptoms among Urban Women

NELSON, DEBORAH B.1; SAMMEL, MARY D.3; FREEMAN, ELLEN W.2; LIN, HUI5; GRACIA, CLARISA R.4; SCHMITZ, KATHRYN H.3

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 1 - pp 50-58
doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e318159d1e4
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

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.

1Department of Public Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; 2Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; 3Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology and Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; 4Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; and 5Center for Research in Reproduction and Women's Health, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

Submitted for publication May 2007.

Accepted for publication August 2007.

Address for correspondence: Deborah B. Nelson, Ph.D., Department of Public Health, College of Health Professions, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122; E-mail: dnelson@temple.edu.

© 2008 American College of Sports Medicine