When the menopause hits, many women are left feeling tired and listless. But instead of curling up on the sofa they should make sure to keep moving.
Walking, jogging and swimming can make the symptoms less severe, a study has found.
Women who did at least three 30-minute sessions a week were around a third less likely to complain of bad hot flushes and extremely painful joints, the study of thousands of middle-aged women found.
On the run: Walking, jogging and swimming can make symptoms of the menopause less severe, a study says
They were also less likely to be obese or depressed, and slept better.
Despite the benefits of exercise, fewer than a third of the 6,000 women questioned were active, the journal Menopause reports.
The study of Latin American women comes just a few months after a British study endorsed the benefits of an active middle age.
Research from Liverpool John Moores University found that women who worked up a sweat in the gym suffered fewer hot flushes than those with a more sedentary lifestyle. And the flushes they did experience were less severe.
This is important because hot flushes are the most common and distressing symptom of the menopause and can disturb sleep, drain energy and cause embarrassment. A single flush can last from a few seconds to a whole hour.
Researcher Dr Helen Jones said her results were so impressive that exercise could be a natural alternative to HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
It is thought that exercise makes it easier for the body to deal with the lapses in heat control that occur around the menopause due to hormonal changes.
Swim: Instead of curling up on the sofa, women should make sure to keep moving when the menopause hits
Even gentle exercise such as gardening could help. Staying active also brings many other benefits, such as reduced risk of cancer, stroke and depression.
Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, of the North American Menopause Society, which carried out the latest research, said: ‘Regular physical activity reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer, dementia, heart attacks, stroke, depression; loss of lean muscle mass, and bone loss and improves immune system function.
‘One study showed that just one hour of walking daily cut the risk of obesity by 24 per cent. Fewer hot flushes, fewer health risks, increased well-being – who doesn’t want these benefits?’
The typical British woman goes through the menopause at 51 and symptoms can last as long as 14 years. Even for an average woman, it takes seven-and-a-half years for the body to adjust.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s first female Chief Medical Officer, has called for more recognition from employers.
Speaking last month, she said that addressing the ‘great taboo’ would cut sick leave, boost productivity and keep more older women in the workforce.
Dame Sally said it was inexcusable that many women did not feel they could even discuss their symptoms with their boss.
Her call for employers to be provided with guidelines on managing menopausal staff follows a warning from the Government’s tsar for the over-50s that women were being forced out of the workplace because employers were ignoring the impact of the menopause.