When you're suffering from hot flashes, the last thing you want to do is work up a sweat. But research shows that it could be just the ticket to sailing through menopause with fewer symptoms.
In a recent Pennsylvania State University study, 92 menopausal women with mild to moderate hot flashes tracked their exercise for 15 days. The researchers discovered that most of the women who exercised experienced fewer flashes for a full day afterward. The effect didn't hold for everyone -- overweight women and women who were out of shape reported having slightly more hot flashes when they increased their exercise -- but overall, more movement equaled fewer flashes.
We're not talking intense pavement-pounding here. The women in the study exercised at a moderate pace -- ideal for taming those “power surges,” says the National Academy of Sports Medicine. High intensity workouts can have the opposite effect, putting you at a higher risk of hot flashes.
All of this is of particular interest to me, as I recently got some unwelcome news: My doc informed me that at the relatively young age of 45, I have officially entered menopause. While I'd been half-expecting such a diagnosis, it was still a bit of a shock. I vividly remember my mom going through The Change. She was young, too -- early 40s, if I remember correctly -- and she was hit with a slew of disturbing symptoms, the worst of which were the hot flashes.
But while genetics may have led me prematurely to this new life stage (six years ahead of the average woman -- call me precocious), my exercise habit may allow me to escape my mom's flush-inducing fate. Mom rarely laced up her sneakers -- perhaps not surprisingly, since she was busy going to school, working and single-handedly raising four kids. (Yep, she's pretty amazing.)
Happily for me as a newly menopausal woman, the benefits of exercise don't end there. More movement can also help with weight loss during a time when many women find that everything they eat, well, sticks. Another study recently published found that overweight women who trimmed down had fewer hot flashes -- particularly if they lost 10 percent or more of their body weight.
Regular sweat sessions can also help you conquer the sleep problems, lack of energy and mood swings that often accompany menopause, says Mehmet Oz, MD.
So sure, I intend to do a lot of sweating over the next few years. But with luck, it won't have anything to do with menopause.