Menopausal women complain of all kinds of symptoms from night sweats and hot flashes to weight gain. Read below about the benefits of endurance training for post menopausal women.
Marilyn Graham was 56 when she signed up for a grueling hour of cycling each morning for 12 weeks, occasionally decked out in a mask, a heart monitor and a bag of intravenous fluid and subjected to needle pricks to obtain blood samples.
"I was probably the biggest whiner of the group, complaining loudly about the seats and how my butt hurt," said Graham, who writes software for business units on the University of California, Berkeley campus. "It was really intense, and on some days my legs felt like wet noodles. On a cranky day I'd say, 'Let me off this stupid bike!'"
But once the training "kicked in," she said," I was feeling good. I had energy left over at the end of the day, less mental sluggishness. And I dropped two dress sizes without any weight loss."
Graham's experience was typical of the 10 healthy but sedentary women, averaging 55 years of age, who participated in a 2006 study of endurance training in 50-something women.
In two papers based on the experiments and published in recent months, UC Berkeley researchers report that postmenopausal women can achieve the same health benefits from regular, vigorous exercise as younger women do.
"There is some good news here for older women in the population, in that they respond much like younger women do to training," said study leader and exercise physiologist George Brooks, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. "The results are very encouraging for exercise without weight loss as an effective means for increasing vigor and controlling risk factors for chronic diseases in older women."
"There have been very few studies looking at postmenopausal women, who are different because of decreased estrogen, decreased lean body mass and decreased aerobic capacity," said Zinta Zarins, a newly minted UC Berkeley Ph.D. who conducted the experiments and is now a post-doctoral fellow at UC San Francisco. "Yet, despite changes in hormones and changes in body composition, postmenopausal women can make significant changes in their cardiovascular fitness without going on extreme diets."
Although the endurance training involved cycling on an exercise bike for an hour, five days a week, at 65 percent of maximum lung capacity, the researchers noted that even less strenuous aerobic exercise would likely produce some benefit.
"Most people don't exercise at this level, but some exercise is better than none at all," Zarins said, noting that 60 minutes of jogging on a treadmill or swimming should be as effective as an hour on a stationary bike.
Brooks noted that a woman's metabolism changes as her hormone levels change after menopause, affecting glucose clearance from the blood, for example. He proposed the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, to determine whether women achieve the same benefits from endurance training after menopause as they did before...read more