Jan. 3, 2008 -- Chalk up another perk from physical activity: less stress for women as they transition to menopause.
- Physically active women report less stress than inactive women.
- After menopause, physically active women report less stress, anxiety, and depression than inactive women.
The researchers' advice: If you're active, keep it going. And if you're not active, get started.
"These results suggest that maintaining or increasing physical activity during the menopausal transition period and postmenopause may assist in reducing a variety of psychological symptoms including anxiety, stress, and depression," write Temple University's Deborah Nelson, PhD, and colleagues.
Stress and Menopause Study
Nelson's team studied 380 women for eight years, starting when the women were 42 years old, on average.
When the study began, the women were premenopausal. During the study, they provided blood samples and reported their stress, anxiety, depression, and menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, or decreased interest in sex) 10 times and noted their physical activity every two years.
Every little bit of activity counted, ranging from vigorous exercise to climbing stairs and walking a few city blocks, even if they didn't consider it a workout.
By the end of the study, 20% of the women had reached menopause (meaning they hadn't had a period in more than a year) and 18% were close to that stage.
How Much Activity?
Some women were more active than others. Here's a quick look at their calories burned, based on a walking pace of 4 miles per hour:
- The most active women walked for 1.5 hours, five times per week.
- The women in the middle of the pack walked for 38 minutes, five times per week.
- The least active women walked for 16 minutes, five times per week.
Activity paid off in terms of stress management. The women in the two most active groups reported less stress throughout the study than the least active women. After menopause, activity also brought less anxiety and depression.
Physical activity didn't affect the women's hot flashes or other physical symptoms of menopause.
The study appears online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. If it inspires you to get active, check in with your doctor first as a precaution.