Menopause, that time in a women’s life where she can count on hot flashes at any time of day, discomforts during sexual encounters, and an increased risk for heart disease. Or is it?
According to a new study from Granada, being involved in an exercise program is most beneficial to overall quality-of-life in women at post menopause. The study tracked three groups of women (Intervention, Sedentary control, Active control) over 20 weeks and again after one year. The study tracked vasomotor symptoms, general health status, age, and health categories. Comparing the sedentary control to the intervention group, the intervention group reported significant improvement in quality of life with an average impairment reduction of 16% (P<0.001). After 1 year, the researchers found that the participants successfully maintained these improvements.
”Growing evidence indicates that an active lifestyle with regular exercise enhances health, quality of life, and fitness in postmenopausal women. Documented results have shown fewer hot flashes and improved mood and that, overall, women are feeling better while their health risks decrease.” (Pinkerton, 2017)
Compared with the sedentary group, the intervention-participants reported better scores of all health-related quality of life measures in the study, including mental well-being, sexuality, and intimate relationships.
The intervention participants were exposed to three, 1-hour per week supervised exercise sessions for 20 weeks. Further, they were exposed in combination with psychological intervention promoting behavior change through cognitive-behavioral self-monitoring and self-regulation skills.
Fitness experts developed the program based on current international guidelines for health. The sedentary control participants were instructed to continue a sedentary lifestyle through the study. The active control participants were instructed to continue with regular exercise.
The researchers measured fitness level and other markers during follow-up sessions at 3- and 12-months post intervention. The authors reported that for cardiovascular factors, systolic blood pressure exhibited improvements after the 20-week program, but were nearly returned back to baseline by the 12-month follow-up. Similar patterns were reported for BMI, weight, and waist circumference during the follow-up period.
The authors noted that the findings support the idea of exercise as a “consequence, safe, non-drug” alternative treatment method for vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes without the use of medical interventions like hormone replacement therapy.
”Menopause has become a period during which many women take the opportunity to change their lifestyle by adopting preventive and well-being-promoting activities focused on a ‘healthy living plans’ that includes healthy eating, regular exercise, and maintenance of an active family and social life,’ the authors explained. ‘This finding may explain why 40% to 60% of women report engaging in exercise to improve vasomotor complaints; notably, this proportion is even higher than that reported for women in premenopausal stages” (Godoy-Izquierdo et al, 2017).
Lifestyle factors like diet and exercise are essential to good health from an Ayurvedic perspective. Eating according to constitution and in moderation is necessary to not overburden the system. Daily exercise is important for aiding digestion, keeping muscles limber and joints lubricated, as well as helping us sleep more soundly at night. For women going through menopause or change of life, Ayurvedic herbs also offer assistance to battling those vasomotor symptoms. In conjunction with exercise, a number of herbs are useful in keeping us healthy and motivated.
Traditionally, Dioscorea villosa (wild yam) or shatavari is used for menopausal support of hot flashes*, and Asparagus racemosus has traditionally been used for its aphrodisiac properties. Cissus quadrangularis has long since been described for endocrine-promoting properties. Both Terminalia arjuna and Indian coral powder have cooling and liver-supportive properties and provide a naturally-balanced elemental calcium and magnesium.*
The importance of exercise cannot be stressed enough. Regular exercise tones and maintains health of the cardiovascular system, keeping hot flashes to a minimum and blood pressure within normal limits. Exercise also aids our mental state so we can literally “work it out” when dealing with a difficult problem. It’s during these exercise states that we release the tension of the day and can move into a relaxed state as our day ends, allowing us to sleep soundly.
The North American Menopause Society. (2017, February 15). Weight Loss Actually Possible After Menopause [Press release]. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/default- document-library/exercise- benefits-for-postmenopausal- women-2- 17.pdf
Godoy-Izquierdo D, et al ”Improvements in health-related quality of life, cardio-metabolic health, and fitness in postmenopausal women after a supervised, multicomponent, adapted exercise program in a suited health promotion intervention: a multigroup study” Menopause 2017; DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000844.
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