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"It's my hormones, doctor"-does physical activity help with menopausal symptoms?

van Poppel, Mireille N.M. PhD1,2; Brown, Wendy J. PhD1

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31804b418c
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Objective: Many women experience health problems when going through menopause, and these health problems may result in a substantial reduction in quality of life. There are some indications that physical activity may play a role in ameliorating menopausal symptoms, but there is conflicting evidence about this. To assess the relationship between changes in physical activity and self-reported vasomotor, somatic, and psychological symptoms.

Design: Data from the third (2001) and fourth (2004) surveys of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health were used. Data from 3,330 middle-aged women were included in the analyses. In linear regression models, the relationships between changes in physical activity of at least moderate intensity and total menopausal, vasomotor, somatic, and psychological symptoms were determined.

Results: Physical activity was not associated with total menopausal symptoms, vasomotor or psychological symptoms. A weak association with somatic symptoms (B = −0.003; 95% CI: −0.005 to −0.001) was found. Weight gain was associated with increased total, vasomotor, and somatic symptoms. Weight loss was associated with a reduction in total and vasomotor symptoms.

Conclusion: Changes in physical activity were not related to vasomotor or psychological symptoms and only marginally to somatic symptoms. Changes in weight showed a stronger relationship with menopausal symptoms. The relationship between weight change and menopausal symptoms merits further exploration.

In this article, the longitudinal relationship between changes in physical activity and menopausal symptoms is assessed, using data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.

From the 1School of Human Movement Studies, Queensland University, Brisbane, Australia; and 2Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Received December 19, 2006; revised and accepted February 13, 2007.

Funding/support: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, which was conceived and developed by groups of interdisciplinary researchers at the University of Newcastle and Queensland University, is funded by the Commonwealth of Australia Government Department of Health and Ageing. The work presented in this paper was made possible by a travel grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Financial disclosure: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Mireille N.M. van Poppel, PhD, Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO-Institute, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: mnm.vanpoppel@vumc.nl

©2008The North American Menopause Society