Women's views about physical activity as a treatment for vasomotor menopausal symptoms: a qualitative study

BMC Womens Health. 2020 Sep 14;20(1):203. doi: 10.1186/s12905-020-01063-w.


Background: Women commonly seek medical advice about menopausal symptoms. Although menopausal hormone therapy is the most effective treatment, many women prefer non-pharmacological treatments, such as physical activity. The effectiveness of physical activity has been inconclusive when assessed by randomised controlled trials, and it remains unclear how women feel about it as a possible treatment approach. The aim of the study was to explore symptomatic menopausal women's views and experiences of physical activity as a treatment for vasomotor and other menopausal symptoms.

Methods: An in-depth qualitative study was embedded within a randomised controlled trial that assessed the effectiveness of physical activity as a treatment for vasomotor menopausal symptoms in previously inactive vasomotor symptomatic women. Participants were randomised to one of two physical activity interventions or a usual care group. Both physical activity interventions involved two one-to-one consultations, plus either supporting materials or access to physical activity support groups, over 6 months. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 purposively selected participants from all three trial groups after they had completed trial follow-up. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed by constant comparison.

Results: All participants talked positively about physical activity as a treatment for their menopausal symptoms, with most reporting participation had improved their hot flushes and night sweats. They reported that they had experienced improved sleep, physical health and psychological well-being. Those who received the physical activity plus social-support intervention reported their ability to cope with their menopausal symptoms had improved. Many participants commented that they would prefer doctors to discuss physical activity as a possible treatment for their hot flushes and night sweats, before offering medication.

Conclusions: Based on the views and experiences of the women who participated in this study, healthcare professionals should continue discussing physical activity as a potential first treatment option with menopausal women. Furthermore, healthcare professionals should ensure they prepare, support, and encourage these women both physically and emotionally.

Trial registration: ISRCTN ISRCTN06495625 Registered 10/11/2010.

Keywords: Exercise; General practice; Hot flushes; Menopause; Night sweats; Primary care.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Hot Flashes / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Menopause / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sweat Gland Diseases / therapy*
  • Sweating*

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN06495625