Hit the Gym to Beat Hot Flashes
"I didn't like the way I was feeling," said Reese, a 56-year-old Goochland County, Va., resident. "I went to my doctor and said, 'I want to go back on HRT.' She suggested exercise instead."
It worked. Reese took to the treadmill for an hour each day, five times a week. In two weeks, the hot flashes subsided. Feelings of stress melted away.
"Exercise definitely helps the symptoms," she said. "It's been great. I know I wouldn't be happy if I didn't exercise."
Reese is not alone in her belief that exercise can relieve menopausal symptoms. That link has been noted by fitness instructors and trainers who have seen the effect on hot flashes, insomnia, joint aches and weight gain often accompanying this phase of a woman's life.
But it's only now starting to get a closer look from researchers and from many women looking for natural ways to ease the symptoms of menopause. Fueling the scrutiny are recent questions about the safety of hormone replacement therapy and a National Institutes of Health panel calling for menopause to be "demedicalized."
One analysis of 12 menopausal women in an eight-week strength training program found that almost half of the women felt less anxious and half had less aching, stiffness and irritability. Another, even smaller, study found that yoga helped reduce participants' overall symptoms by 16 percent. Other researchers have found, however, that exercise programs produce little or no improvement of symptoms.