Mind-Body Exercise and Menopause
Shirley Archer, JD, MA, 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, an award-winning author and IDEA’s mind-body spokesperson, explains the research and application of mind-body exercise on menopause.
Irritability and Mood Swings
Yoga and other mind-body activities can help you overcome mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and even feelings of hopelessness and sadness coming from hormonal fluctuations. The most recent review of randomized controlled studies on yoga’s effectiveness for menopausal symptom relief found moderate evidence for short-term improvement of psychological symptoms, such as mood changes, anxiety and depression; the review was based on four studies with a total of 545 participants (Cramer et al. 2012).
To date, the most successful intervention for reducing both the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats is deep breathing as paced respiration—ideally 6–8 breaths per minute in twice-daily 15-minute sessions (Sood et al. 2013). These researchers also noted that since women reported difficulty in finding time for two practices per day, it would likely be beneficial to find a once-daily practice that would still maximize beneficial effects.
Estrogen loss affects the urethra and bladder, resulting in urinary urgency, frequency and incontinence among some women (Kim et al. 2015).
In a randomized pilot study, University of California, San Francisco, researchers found that a 6-week yoga therapy program consisting of twice-weekly group classes and once-weekly home practice decreased incontinence frequency. Subjects practiced Iyengar yoga with an emphasis on alignment, pelvic-floor structures and muscle awareness, prop use for support, and mindfulness—rather than cycling rapidly through postures, deep breathing and relaxation (Huang et al. 2014). Pilates practice, with an emphasis on alignment, core conditioning, breathing and muscle awareness, particularly of pelvic-floor structures, has also been found to help some women with incontinence (Pedriali et al. 2016).
Booth-LaForce, C., Thurston, R.C., & Taylor, M.R., 2007. A pilot study of a Hatha yoga treatment for menopausal symptoms. Maturitas, 57 (3), 286–95.
Cramer, H., et al. 2012. Effectiveness of yoga for menopausal symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. doi: 10.1155/2012/863905.
Huang, A.J., et al. 2014. A group-based yoga therapy intervention for urinary incontinence in women: A pilot randomized trial. Female Pelvic Medical Reconstructive Surgery, 20 (3), 147–54.
Kim, H., et al. 2015. The recent review of the genitourinary syndrome of menopause. Journal of Menopausal Medicine, 21, 65–71.
Pedriali, F.R., et al. 2016. Is Pilates as effective as conventional pelvic floor muscle exercises in the conservative treatment of post-prostatectomy urinary incontinence? A randomised controlled trial. Neurology and Urodynamics, 35 (5), 615–21.
Sood, R., et al. 2013. Paced breathing compared with usual breathing for hot flashes. Menopause, 20 (2), 179–84.