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Effect of a yearlong, moderate-intensity exercise intervention on the occurrence and severity of menopause symptoms in postmenopausal women

Aiello, Erin J. MPH1,2; Yasui, Yutaka PhD1; Tworoger, Shelley S. PhC1,3; Ulrich, Cornelia M. PhD1,3; Irwin, Melinda L. PhD, MPH4; Bowen, Deborah PhD1; Schwartz, Robert S. MD5; Kumai, Claudia PA1; Potter, John D. MD, PhD1,3; McTiernan, Anne MD, PhD1,3,6

doi: 10.1097/01.GME.0000113932.56832.27

Objective: To evaluate the effect of moderate-intensity exercise on the occurrence and severity of menopause symptoms.

Design: A yearlong, randomized, clinical trial, conducted in Seattle, WA, with 173 overweight, postmenopausal women not taking hormone therapy in the previous 6 months. The intervention was a moderate-intensity exercise intervention (n = 87) versus stretching control group (n = 86). Using logistic regression, odds ratios comparing exercise with controls were calculated at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months for menopause symptoms and their severity.

Results: There was a significant increase in hot flash severity and decreased risk of memory problems in exercisers versus controls over 12 months, although the numbers affected were small. No other significant changes in symptoms were observed.

Conclusions: Exercise does not seem to decrease the risk of having menopause symptoms in overweight, postmenopausal women not taking hormone therapy and may increase the severity of some symptoms in a small number of women.

Data from a randomized controlled trial showed that exercise did not decrease the risk of menopause symptoms in postmenopausal, overweight women not taking hormone therapy. In fact, exercise may increase the severity of hot flashes in a small number of women.

From the 1Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Division of Public Health Sciences, Cancer Prevention Research Program, Seattle, WA; 2Group Health Cooperative, Center for Health Studies, Seattle, WA; 3University of Washington, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Department of Epidemiology, Seattle, WA; 4Yale University, School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, New Haven, CT; 5University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Denver, CO; 6University of Washington, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Seattle, WA.

Received August 27, 2003; revised and accepted November 25, 2003.

This research was supported by research grant R01-69334 from the National Cancer Institute. A portion of this work was conducted through the Clinical Research Center Facility at the University of Washington and supported by the National Institutes of Health, Grant M01-RR-00037 and AG1094. Ms. Tworoger was supported in part by a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Training Grant (T32EF07262). Dr. Irwin was supported by a National Cancer Institute Cancer Prevention Training grant (T32CA09661).

Address correspondence to: Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, PO Box 19024, MP-900, Seattle, WA 98109-1024. E-mail:

©2004The North American Menopause Society