Hot flashes can seriously impact a woman’s quality of life during the perimenopause and menopause years. Perimenopause is defined as the years prior to menopause when women experience shorter, longer, and/or irregular menstrual cycles which can be attributed to decreases in hormones such as estrogen. This period can range from a few months up to 10 years. Menopause is “diagnosed” when a woman has gone a full 12 months without a menstrual cycle. While the exact cause of hot flashes is unknown, they are largely believed to be due to decreases in estrogen (and even possibly progesterone) as a woman approaches menopause. The drop in hormones may effect the temperature regulating system in a woman’s brain. Just like your furnace, your body has its own built in thermostat!
Hot flashes are associated with a sudden, intense, and uncomfortable sensation of heat, sweating, and even redness in the face. There are numerous, safe, effective, non-hormonal treatments that can reduce the unwanted feeling of hot flashes. In this article I focus on an effective lifestyle habit that reduces hot flashes- RESISTANCE EXERCISE! NO DRUGS REQUIRED!
Resistance exercise is any form of exercise that causes your muscles to contract and work in response to load- it could be performed using weights or you own body weight! This form of exercise not only tones and generates more lean muscle mass, it increases strength and may reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes up to 50%!1
A Swedish randomized control trial was published recently, in August 2019, on this very intervention. Women who experienced moderate to intense hot flashes were randomly placed into one of two groups; one group who was instructed to complete resistance exercise three times a week and one group who did not exercise (the participants selected for this study did not exercise prior to the onset of the study). It should be noted that the study participants did not use any other form of therapy for their hot flashes in 2 months prior to the study.1
The training program lasted for 15 weeks and the exercises contained six exercises in seated resistance machines and two body-weight exercises; chest press, leg press, seated row, leg curl, latissimus dorsi pull-down, leg extension, crunches and back raises.1
The seated exercises were performed with 8–12 repetitions in two sets with two minutes’ rest between sets. Body-weight exercises were performed until exhaustion in two sets (approximately 20 repetitions/set).1
The group performing the exercises saw, on average, a 43.6% reduction in hot flashes while the control group (group who did no exercise) saw only a 2% reduction.1
Considering the burden of hot flashes and the negative impact to the quality of life of women suffering form hot flashes, women should be educated on safely incorporating a resistance training program as part of their health care plan to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. I regularly talk to my patients about their physical activity routines; if you need guidance in this area; please book an appointment with me- you can do so online at https://drlisatabrizi.wpengine.com/ or by calling or email me at 289-259-7527 or [email protected].
- Berin, E., Hammar, M., Lindblom, H., Lindh-Åstrand, L. and Spetz Holm, A. (2019). Resistance training for hot flushes in postmenopausal women: Randomized controlled trial protocol. Maturitas, [online] 126, pp.55-60. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378512218307618#bbib0070 [Accessed 15 Oct. 2019].