For women experiencing menopausal hot flashes, we can offer a helpful preventive approach. Researchers found that most women who exercised had fewer hot flashes for 24 hours afterwards. "For women with mild to moderate hot flashes and night sweats, there is no reason to avoid physical activity for the fear of making symptoms worse," study co-author Steriani Elavsky, assistant professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, said in a university news release. "In fact, physical activity may be helpful, and is certainly the best way to maximize health as women age," Elavsky added. "Becoming and staying active on a regular basis as part of your lifestyle is the best way to ensure healthy aging and well being, regardless of whether you experience hot flashes and or night sweats or not."
For the study, the researchers followed 92 menopausal women -- all with mild or moderate hot flash symptoms -- for 15 days. The women were recruited for a study of physical activity, not menopausal symptoms. The participants, aged 40 to 59, weren't taking hormones. The women wore accelerometers that measured their physical activity, and also wore devices that measured the moisture of their skin and kept track of their hot flashes. Some people might assume that physical activity increases hot flashes because the body gets hotter, Elavsky suggested in the news release. But the study didn't find that was true. Not everyone received the same benefit from exercise, the investigators found. The effect was smallest in women who were overweight, less fit, had more hot flashes, or had more intense ones. The researchers also pointed out that they don't know if hot flashes would become less common if women lost weight and became more fit. The study was released online June 25 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Menopause. SOURCE: Pennsylvania State University, news release, June 27, 2012