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Weight-training may help reduce hot flashes

Postmenopausal women can fight off hot flashes and night sweats by pumping iron, a new clinical trial shows.

“Resistance training is already recommended for all women always, but now we can see it may be effective also for hot flashes around menopause,” Dr. Emilia Berin of Linkoping University in Sweden, who led the study, told Reuters Health.

Hormone therapy is the most effective treatment for hot flashes and night sweats, which plague most women during menopause, Berin’s team writes in the journal Maturitas. Some studies suggest that exercise may help quell hot flashes as well, but others have found no effect, they note.

Berin and her colleagues randomly assigned 58 women experiencing at least four moderate-to-severe hot flashes or night sweats daily to 15 weeks of resistance training or to a control group whose members did not change their physical activity. None of the study participants exercised regularly before the trial and none had used hormone therapy in the prior two months.

The workout group’s regimen included three weekly 45-minute sessions, with six exercises on resistance machines and two using body weight. Women worked out with lighter weights for the first three weeks, then with progressively heavier loads.

The exercise group averaged 7.5 hot flashes or night sweats a day at the beginning of the study, and after 15 weeks were having an average of 4.4 episodes a day. There was virtually no change in the control group participants, who went from 6.6 to 6.5 hot flashes daily.

The training program was challenging for the study participants, Berin noted in a phone interview. “To actually push themselves harder than they were used to was new to them. They had to be encouraged to increase the load more so they would get the effects of the training,” she said. “After they progressed, they enjoyed it and almost everyone continued to exercise after the intervention.”

Future research should look at whether resistance training could benefit other groups who suffer from hot flashes but can’t or won’t take hormones, including breast cancer patients and prostate cancer patients on androgen-deprivation therapy, Berin added.

Menopausal women (or anyone) interested in starting resistance training should begin with lighter loads in the first week to avoid injury, Berin said. “Get instruction so that you’re doing it right, and then don’t be afraid to push yourself and increase the load.”

“Women who are not candidates for hormone therapy or prefer to avoid hormones at menopause need tested alternatives to help with hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disruption,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society and a professor at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, who wasn’t involved in the trial.

“Exercise has shown mixed results for reducing hot flashes in symptomatic menopausal women,” Pinkerton said by email. “It is exciting that this most recent study of 15 weeks of resistance training showed a decrease in the frequency and severity of moderate and severe hot flushes among postmenopausal women,” she added.

“Exercise has many benefits for postmenopausal women, with decreased incidence of heart disease, bone loss and cancer, and thus finding that it worked to reduce hot flashes gives us another reason to recommend resistance training as well as cardio exercise for all the benefits including improvement in hot flashes,” Pinkerton said.

SOURCE: Maturitas, online May 14, 2019.

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