A recent study found that postmenopausal women benefit from exercise just as premenopausal do. Researchers theorize that early postmenopausal women could gain more benefits from exercise that counteract the effects of aging and estrogen loss. The researchers examined 20 premenopausal and 16 early postmenopausal women that were a few years apart in age to determine if this was the case. The study was published in the Journal of Physiology.
Menopause happens in women where menstrual periods stop permanently and can no longer bear children. Most of the time, menopause occurs between 49 and 52 years of age in most women. Decreased hormone production by ovaries and loss of vaginal bleeding for at least a year are some of the symptoms of menopause. Menopause can also happen when the uterus is removed due to illness or disease, but the ovaries remain. Estrogen loss in postmenopausal women has a negative effect on muscle and blood vessel function. Signs of menopause includes experiencing hot flashes that last 30 seconds to ten minutes; vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping, and mood changes. The severity of symptoms depends on each woman.
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. It triggers the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and women’s secondary sex characteristics. Estrogens can be used as medications and are part of oral contraceptives and in hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women. Estrogen can also treat prostate and breast cancers. In postmenopausal women, estrogen production decreases.
Professor Ylva Hellsten from the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study found that the effects of various menopause stages on physical exercise cannot be grouped together, according to EurekAlert! The 36 middle-aged women underwent a 12-week exercise training routine that included high-intensity cycling. Professor Hellsten’s colleagues then determined the exercise effect on the research participants using physiological tests. Tissue samples were taken from the participants’ thigh muscles to examine for molecular changes. By examining these samples, the researchers saw the effect of training on the research studies muscle and blood vessels.
The study at the cellular level, may find a pathway that could underlie the elevated sensitivity to physical exercise in recently postmenopausal women. Further studies are needed using less invasive testing and in more diverse populations to determine if Professor Hellsten’s findings are correct. Michael Nyberg, co-author of the study, would like to “elaborate on the findings” and explore the signaling pathway at the cell level for postmenopausal women.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Dr. Michael Nyberg