Study: Exercise Eases Hot Flashes During Menopause
A team led by researchers from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, hypothesized that exercise training attenuates the changes in cutaneous vasodilation, sweat rate and cerebral blood flow during a hot flash. In an attempt to measure the characteristics of hot flashes and the effects of exercise, Jones and colleagues recruited 21 healthy symptomatic post-menopausal women. In a preference trial, 18 symptomatic post-menopausal women underwent a passive heat stress to induce hot-flushes at baseline and follow-up. Fourteen participants opted for a 16-week moderate intensity supervised exercise intervention, while 7 participants opted for control.
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Participants also completed a self-assessment of the frequency and intensity of their hot flashes. The authors also evaluated the patients’ hot flashes by placing them in hot water suits to induce a hot flash, subsequently recording participants’ physiological reactions, such as sweating and skin and brain blood flow. Those in the exercise group worked out on treadmills, bikes, rowers and cross-trainers, sweating and increasing their breathing and blood flow. This group progressed from 3 weekly 30-minute sessions to five sessions of 45 minutes apiece on a weekly basis.
After 4 months, the authors measured the number and degree of hot flashes, using the same measurements they previously used. Sweating was greatly reduced when hot flashes occurred among those in the exercise group, and blood flow to the skin decreased by 9% at the chest, and by 7% on the forearms. Blood flow in the brain was minimized, according to the investigators, who note that the hot flashes increased heart rate, skin blood flow, and sweating, while mean arterial pressure and blood flow in the brain was reduced.
The results from this preliminary study suggest that “exercise training in symptomatic post-menopausal females who are inactive may benefit from moderate- to high-intensity exercise that gets them hot and sweaty,” says Tom Bailey, PhD, a post-doctoral research fellow in the School of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Maroochydore, Australia.
Describing this research as the first objective study of its kind, Bailey suggests the findings confirm that “a large randomized control trial is warranted to establish the physiological effects of exercise as a treatment for hot flashes.
Menopausal females are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and those with increased hot flash severity have also been shown to have early vascular dysfunction and insulin resistance, he says.
As such, “exercise may be beneficial, alongside other treatment options,” concludes Bailey.
Bailey T, Cable T, et al. Exercise training reduces the acute physiological severity of post-menopausal hot flushes. Journal of Physiology. 2015.