Research Suggests Sports-Related Hobbies Vital for Postmenopausal Women

Study suggests that leisure time physical activity improves blood lipid profile which proves to be a marker of cardiovascular risks for women who are postmenopausal. 

According to a recently published study sports-related activities help improve heart health in women who might be suffering from menopause or may be postmenopausal. The study that has been published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, discusses the importance of sports activities for women. Sira Karvinen, postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sport an Health Sciences, who is the first author for the study explains that cardiovascular risk increases significantly as a woman reaches the menopause stage.

Based on the research, an individuals lipid profile is a good marker of their cardiovascular health and comprises of the individuals total cholesterol, including low density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), fasting blood sugar levels and triglyceride.

Karvinen explains, that menopause is associated with “unfavorable changes” in the lipid metabolism which leads to an increased possibility of “developing metabolic syndrome and/or cardiovascular disease”. However, there is less agreement concerning the link between leisure time physical activity, lipid profile changes and the cardiovascular risk after menopause.

Karvenin and her team investigated approximately 193 women under the Estrogenic Regulation of Muscle Apoptosis (ERMA) study, of women between the ages of 47 and 55. Dr. Mathew Jergenson, who is a co-author for the study, discusses motivation behind the study as:

It is well known that physical activity has health benefits, yet it is less clear to what extent physical activity can prevent the negative changes seen in blood lipid profiles during the menopausal transition.

Dr. Mathew Jergenson Study Co-author

Dr. Jergenson elaborated that the study focuses on women in the city of Jyväskylä in Finland, to explore how leisure time physical activity and its affects on the risks of contracting cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, the research team used questionnaires and accelerometers to monitor the levels of general physical activity in women as well as leisure time physical activity in particular.

Leisure time activity is best described as any form of exercise, sports, and/or recreation that is done apart from ones regular work, such as house chores and transport activities et cetera.

Karvenin and team have been able to find links between higher levels of leisure time activity and lower levels of cholesterol, LDL [also known as bad cholesterol], triglycerides, fasting blood sugar and higher levels of HDL [commonly known as good cholesterol], respectively.

Based on our findings, leisure time physical activity was associated with a healthier blood lipid profile.

Sira Karvinen Study author

It was further noted that the positive changes are not sufficient to counter the adverse effects in the lipid profile of a person. Karvinen further elaborated that the advancing menopausal status predicted a less healthy lipid profile which was suggestive of the fact that leisure time physical activity does not entirely offset the “unfavourable” changes usually associated with menopausal transition.

However, leisure time physical activity may attenuate the unfavorable atherogenic changes in the serum (cardiovascular) risk factors of healthy middle aged women. Hence one should not forget sport-related hobbies at middle age.

Karvinen & Jergenson Study Authors

Additionally, the research team highlighted the strengths and limitations of their work such as the use of ERMA as their strong point since the study is a “comprehensive cohort” specifically targeting postmenopausal changes. According to them, the ERMA study allowed the use of bleeding diaries and serum follice stimulating hormone levels, instead of the participants’ self-reporting, to investigate the status of menopause on women.

The team further used questionnaires, lab results, and physical measurements to assess the cardiovascular risks in the participants of the study. Another strength included low discontinuation rates as well as larger numbers of participants in comparison to prior research.

However, it was inferred that clinical relevance is limited due to the team not accounting for the outcomes such as cardiovascular events, cardiovascular mortality and/or all-cause mortality. Furthermore, it was concluded that the participants of the study were all white females, therefore, homogeneous due to which the results of the study may not apply to women of other ethnicities. Also, they may not be of much help to women with limited healthcare and medical facilities.


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