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Exercise no help for hot flashes: 8 other proven ways to control menopause symptoms

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Exercise no help for hot flashes but may ease depression and insomnia.

In a new study from Kaiser Permanente, researchers found exercise is no benefit for easing hot flashes associated with menopause or approaching menopause. But for women, there were some other health perks found from remaining physically active that include lifting depression and getting better sleep.

The finding looked at exercise benefits for alleviating hot flashes in among 248 women who were asked to keep diaries. The women were postmenopausal or approaching menopause.

Among the participants 106 were enrolled in an aerobics program three times a week for 12 weeks. The remainder of the women performed their usual activities. The women also kept track of depression, insomnia and night sweats.

The result of the study showed no significant benefit of exercise for hot flashes, but aerobic activity did ease insomnia and depression to a small degree.

More physically fit women had fewer hot flashes, the study also found.

"Midlife women cannot expect exercise to relieve [hot flashes and night sweats] but may reasonably expect it to improve how they feel and their overall health," study author Barbara Sternfeld, of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, and colleagues wrote in the findings published in the journal Menopause.

What does help hot flashes?

A past study that included a large number of women can help with weight loss, in turn decreasing hot flashes and other symptoms. Penn State researchers last year published findings showing overweight or obese women who are inactive have an increased risk of having symptoms related to menopause. The study included data from 17,473 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study participants aged 50 to 79 that were not taking hormone replacement therapy.

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The drug Brisdelle was recently approved by the FDA as a hot flash remedy. The medication that is the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil) was approved at a much lower dose than given for depression and shown to alleviate moderate to severe hot flashes. Speak with your doctor if you symptoms are interfering with sleep and quality of life.

There is also evidence that acupuncture can ease hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. Researchers for the study also found women who underwent acupuncture had higher levels of estrogen compared to a group that received sham therapy.

Behavioral changes are also beneficial when it comes to quelling menopause symptoms. Researchers at King’s College London studied the cognitive therapy as a non-drug approach for helping women get through those mid-life changes. What they found was women who were able to alter the way they perceived their symptoms had fewer problems.

A previous Kaiser Permanente study, Colorado showed women who lose weight with a low fat diet and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables also fare better during 'the change of life'.

Senior researcher Myra Hunter said behavioral therapy “involves developing helpful, accepting approaches to hot flashes and also using breathing exercises to focus attention away from the flashes and negative thoughts.”

Pycnogel that comes from pine bark extract can also cool menopausal women down. Researchers found taking a low dose each day has no side effects and the remedy can significantly ease skin flushing, sweating and other symptoms.

The natural supplement S-equol that is made from a germ-based soy ingredient has been found to reduce hot flashes by 59 percent. When the compound in S-equol is metabolized it interacts with estrogen receptors to modulate the effects of estrogen decline that happens to women during mid-life.

The new study, published in the journal Menopause July 29, 2013, shows exercise is no benefit for hot flashes, but focusing on a healthy diet, weight loss and control, learning to embrace menopause symptoms and seeking alternative therapies can help with menopause symptoms. It's also important to continue exercising for all of the other known health benefits.

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