Metabolic health, menopause, and physical activity-a 4-year follow-up study

Int J Obes (Lond). 2021 Nov 20;1-11. doi: 10.1038/s41366-021-01022-x. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: In women, metabolic health deteriorates after menopause, and the role of physical activity (PA) in mitigating the change is not completely understood. This study investigates the changes in indicators of metabolic health around menopause and evaluates whether PA modulates these changes.

Methods: Longitudinal data of 298 women aged 48-55 years at baseline participating in the ERMA and EsmiRs studies was used. Mean follow-up time was 3.8 (SD 0.1) years. Studied indicators of metabolic health were total and android fat mass, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure, blood glucose, triglycerides, serum total cholesterol, and high- (HDL-C) and low-density (LDL-C) lipoprotein cholesterol. PA was assessed by accelerometers and questionnaires. The participants were categorized into three menopausal groups: PRE-PRE (pre- or perimenopausal at both timepoints, n = 56), PRE-POST (pre- or perimenopausal at baseline, postmenopausal at follow-up, n = 149), and POST-POST (postmenopausal at both timepoints, n = 93). Analyses were carried out using linear and Poisson mixed-effect models.

Results: At baseline, PA associated directly with HDL-C and inversely with LDL-C and all body adiposity variables. An increase was observed in total (B = 1.72, 95% CI [0.16, 3.28]) and android fat mass (0.26, [0.06, 0.46]), SBP (9.37, [3.34, 15.39]), and in all blood-based biomarkers in the PRE-POST group during the follow-up. The increase tended to be smaller in the PRE-PRE and POST-POST groups compared to the PRE-POST group, except for SBP. The change in PA associated inversely with the change in SBP (-2.40, [-4.34, -0.46]) and directly with the change in WHR (0.72, [0.05, 1.38]).

Conclusions: In middle-aged women, menopause may accelerate the changes in multiple indicators of metabolic health. PA associates with healthier blood lipid profile and body composition in middle-aged women but does not seem to modulate the changes in most of the studied metabolic health indicators during the menopausal transition.