Menopause, the period of life for middle-aged women that occurs when the body stops producing reproductive hormones, has a significant effect on a woman’s endocrine, cardiovascular, skeletal, immune, and genitourinary systems. These effects include issues such as sleeping problems, hot flashes, and worse psychological symptoms. Previous studies have shown that engaging in regular physical activity has physical, psychological, and social health benefits for middle-aged women.
A cross-sectional study in BMC Women’s Health sought to investigate the association between physical activity and the severity of menopausal symptoms. “Women spend a third of their lives in the perimenopausal and postmenopausal stages, so investigating the relationship between physical activity and the severity of menopausal symptoms may help in relieving their symptoms and improving their quality of life,” the authors of the study wrote.
Utilizing online survey study data, the demographic information from 468 women aged 45 to 60 years was collected. In this study, the Modified Kupperman Menopausal Index scale and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire short form were employed. The optimal combination of variables was selected, and their importance was ranked using the random forest method. Additionally, the ordinal logistic regression model was used to elucidate the direction and relative risk (expressed as the odds ratio value) of the selected variables.
Of the study population, the prevalence of menopausal syndromes was 74.8% and 54.3% of women reported moderate or severe symptoms. Results of the Mantel-Haenszel linear-by-linear chi-square tests showed a strong and negative correlation between physical activity level and the severity of menopausal symptoms (P <0.001). Furthermore, “Random forest demonstrated that the physical activity level was the most significant variable associated with the severity of menopausal symptoms.”
The results of the study also suggested that higher physical activity and good perceived health may protect against menopausal symptoms in women, while being in perimenopause or postmenopause and having two children may increase the risk of experiencing menopausal symptoms.
The authors acknowledged several limitations to their study. Firstly, the cross-sectional design of the study “did not permit assessment of the temporal and potentially causal relation of variables.” The data that was analyzed were also self-reported which may have contributed to validity concerns.
“Our study provided useful information for physicians and policy makers on devising specific programs to encourage middle-aged women to do moderate to high levels of physical activity,” the authors concluded.