‘Workout’ your hot flushes!

Menopausal women who exercise may experience fewer hot flushes in the 24 hours following physical activity, according to health researchers.

In general, women who are relatively inactive or overweight tend to have a risk of increased symptoms of perceived hot flushes.

Steriani Elavsky, assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Penn State University, claimed “hot flushes do not always correspond to actual hot flushes”. Most previous research analysed only self-reported hot flushes and this is reportedly the first study known to the researchers to look at “objective versus subjective” hot flushes.

Professor Elavsky and his colleagues studied 92 menopausal women, with mild to moderate symptoms, for more than a fortnight.

“Our sample included women with mild to moderate symptoms and they were recruited for a study of physical activity, not for a study of menopause,” Professor Elavsky said.

The women, aged 40 to 59 years old, were not on hormone therapy and had an average of two children. During analysis, the researchers separated the women into normal weight and overweight/obese categories and higher fit and lower fit categories.

The participants wore accelerometers to monitor their physical activity and also monitors measuring skin conductance, which varies with the moisture level of the skin. Each participant recorded the individual hot flushes she had throughout the 15-day period on a personal digital assistant.

Through these two methods of recording hot flushes, the researchers found the frequency of objective and subjective hot flushes. Objective hot flushes occurred when the monitor recorded them; subjective hot flushes occurred when the woman reported them.

When an objective and a subjective hot flush were recorded within five minutes of each other, it was considered a “true positive” hot flush, the researchers reported.

“Some physiological explanations would suggest performing physical activity could increase hot flushes because it acutely increases body core temperature,” Professor Elavsky explained.

On average, the women in the study reportedly experienced fewer hot flush symptoms after exercising. However, the women who were classified as overweight, having a lower level of fitness or were experiencing more frequent, or intense hot flushes noticed the smallest reduction in symptoms.

It was not yet known if a woman could use diet and exercise to lose weight and become fit and therefore experience fewer hot flushes, but it was a possibility worthy of future investigation, noted the researchers.

“For women with mild to moderate hot flushes, there is no reason to avoid physical activity for the fear of making symptoms worse.

“In fact, physical activity may be helpful, and is certainly the best way to maximise health as women age. Becoming and staying active on a regular basis as part of your lifestyle is the best way to ensure healthy ageing and wellbeing, regardless of whether you experience hot flushes or not.”

Are you experiencing hot flushes? If so, share your thoughts on this latest research which links the reduction of hot flushes to increased physical activity.