If you’re struggling with hot flashes, your best course of action might be to get moving. Although exercise may seem counterintuitive when you’re overheating, recent research indicates that in women who experience mild to moderate hot flashes, those who exercise have fewer hot flashes for 24 hours afterwards.
This may be welcome news for women who can’t find relief from those uncomfortable inner heat waves.
The recent study included 92 menopausal women aged 40 to 59, none of whom were taking hormones. The women were recruited for a study examining physical activity. They wore accelerometers that measured their physical activity as well as devices that measured skin moisture and hot flashes. The researchers followed the women for 15 days, assessing their daily physical activity and also supervising a 30-minute moderate-intensity aerobic workout on a treadmill.
While many assume that physical activity will increase hot flashes as the body warms up, the results of this study indicate that is not what actually happens. Both subjective and objective measures of hot flashes revealed that the hot flashes decreased after the acute exercise session. The researchers observed that moderate aerobic exercise decreases hot flashes for 24 hours after exercise; however, they noticed that not everyone received the same benefits from exercise. Women who were overweight, less fit, or had more frequent or intense hot flashes did not reap the same benefits from exercise.
The researchers concluded that women who suffer from mild to moderate hot flashes may benefit from exercise to help reduce those symptoms. They were uncertain whether losing weight and becoming more fit could help other women reduce their hot flashes as well.
The takeaway message—exercise can’t hurt and it might help when it comes to hot flashes. There is no reason for women to avoid physical activity for fear of exacerbating hot flashes. In fact, more women might benefit from incorporating exercise, losing weight, and becoming more fit—it’s a good recipe for overall health as well as reduced menopausal symptoms.
The bottom line: get moving and stay moving—before, during, and after menopause.
Elavsky S, Gonzales J, Proctor D, et al. Effects of physical activity on vasomotor symptoms: Examination using objective and subjective measures. Menopause. Published early online June 25, 2012. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31824f8fb8