Menopause occurs in the late 40s or early 50s. Its symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood swings. Some women also experience foggy thinking during menopause. Recent studies conducted at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation of the Queensland University of Technology in Kelvin Grove, Australia show that regular exercise can help.
Cognitive Function: The Estrogen Connection
Interest in menopause related cognitive problems began in the 1990s. Researchers found a link between cognitive function and reduced estrogen. Ovary function declines during menopause. This triggers a reduction in the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen has several essential effects on brain function:
- It enhances enhancing synaptic plasticity, which is essential for learning and memory.
- It increases formation of neurons in the hippocampus — which is critical for memory.
- It protects against cell death.
- It dilates blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow to your brain.
Although some doctors prescribe hormone replacement therapy, this type of treatment has a variety of risks. Hormone replacement therapy can:
- Increase the risks of vein clots in the legs
- Make you more susceptible to uterine or breast cancer
- Increase the risk of heart attack or stroke
Obviously, many menopausal women seek an alternative approach.
The Exercise Connection
Debra Anderson, of the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation of the Queensland University of Technology in Kelvin Grove, Australia, organized a team of researchers to study the connection between exercise and menopause related cognitive problems. The team assessed 21 studies published between 2009 and 2014, which examined the physical activity of women aged 65 and over.
Some of the studies focused on structured group aerobic exercise programmes designed to hit a specific heart rate and energy expenditures. Others were focused on strength training and yoga. Ms Anderson and her team reported that higher physical activity levels were not only associated with slower physical decline and better fitness. The more surprising outcome: exercise showed a positive effect on cognitive function.
The researchers also found a distinct link between sedentary living and mental decline.
In an email to Reuters Health, Ms Anderson said: “We found that moderate to vigorous exercise is better than mild and gentle exercise. There was a dose response in moderate to vigorous exercise which showed more was progressively better.
“Based on our findings we feel this should be 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five times per week for midlife and older women.”
Whilst vigorous exercise sounds like a good idea in theory, the intensity of the exercise depends upon the health of your muscles, ligaments and joints. Ask one of our physiotherapists to set you up on a vigorous, but safe program. Your body and brain will appreciate it!
Ask help from a Perth physiotherapist at i Physio Perth. Call us at 9444 8729 today!