Background: Evidence suggests that a high proportion of perimenopausal and early postmenopausal women will experience some menopause symptoms, hot flushes being the most common. The effects caused by falling levels of estrogen may be alleviated by hormone replacement therapy (HRT) but there has been a marked global decline in the prescription and use of HRT due to concerns about the risks and benefits of HRT; consequently many women are now seeking alternatives. As large numbers of women are choosing not to take HRT, it is increasingly important to identify evidence based lifestyle modifications, which can have a positive effect on menopausal symptoms.
Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of any type of exercise intervention in the management of vasomotor menopausal symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
Search strategy: Searches of the following electronic bibliographic databases were performed to identify randomised controlled trials: The Cochrane Library (CENTRAL) (Wiley Internet interface) 2006 Issue 2, MEDLINE (Ovid) 1966-May week 4 2006, EMBASE (Ovid) 1980-week 21 2006, PsycINFO (Ovid) 1967-May week 5 2006, Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index (Web of Science) 1900-June 2006 and 1956-June 2006 respectively, CINAHL (Ovid) 1982-May week 4 2006, SPORT Discus (ERL WebSPIRS) 1830-2006/04.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in which any type of exercise intervention was compared to other treatments or no treatment in the management of menopausal vasomotor symptoms in symptomatic perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
Data collection and analysis: Nineteen reports were deemed potentially eligible, but of these only one met the inclusion criteria and three authors independently extracted data from this trial.
Main results: Only one very small trial, which compared exercise with HRT, was available for inclusion in this review. Based on within-group analyses the study authors concluded that both interventions were effective in reducing vasomotor symptoms. Between-group trial analyses conducted by reviewers showed that the HRT group experienced significantly fewer hot flushes compared to the exercise group at follow-up.
Authors' conclusions: Only one very small trial involving symptomatic women has assessed the effectiveness of exercise in the management of vasomotor menopausal symptoms. Exercise was not as effective as HRT in this trial. We found no evidence from randomised controlled trials on whether exercise is an effective treatment relative to other interventions or no intervention in reducing hot flushes and or night sweats in symptomatic women. No conclusions regarding the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for vasomotor menopausal symptoms could be made due to a lack of trials.