THE CLINIC: In Menopause, Running Won’t Hurt

Wed, 12 June 2013 - 1:30 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

QUESTION:

I used to enjoy running in hot weather. However, at age 40 I started having hot flashes. Now, in addition to the heat, the stress of being on the starting line can bring on a hot flash. My race times are suffering because I have no way of dissipating the heat. Is there anything that I can do specific to menopause and running? Does running help with symptoms or make them worse? Have there been any studies on the effects of menopause on running, or vice versa?

Kimberly Cooper

El Paso, TX

 

ANSWER:

This question has been examined in a number of studies over the years. The overall consensus is that age, not menopause, is largely responsible for the changes seen in running endurance and speed. That being said, some of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and sleep deprivation, can impact running performance. A study published in Runner's World made the following conclusions: 

  •  More women in this sample perceive changes in their running to be related to age than to menopause. 
  •  The most common change in running for women of menopausal age was a decrease in training pace. 
  •  Most women reported running affects menopause in a positive way, despite negative changes in running. 
  •  The women runners in this sample reported being postmenopausal at an age earlier than the national average. 
  •  Weight gain was fairly typical for women in this sample, even with regular exercise. 
  •  The women in this sample continue to run and compete well beyond menopause.

I generally agree with these as this is consistent in what I have seen in my own practice. Menopause and its symptoms are tremendously varied and each individual is affected differently. I have found many runners in my own practice do well on some of the "natural" remedies such as black cohosh and phytoestrogens. Interestingly, most studies indicate running is a wonderful treatment for menopausal symptoms as exercise has been shown to dramatically reduce hot flashes and mood and emotional changes. My guess is that your symptoms may be even worse without your running. 

Ron Eaker, MD

Augusta, GA

 

ANSWER:

Menopause has not been related in severity of symptoms or timing of menopause to running. Soy supplements have not been shown to help hot flushes. As long as other risk factors are not present such as smoking, stroke, heart disease, etc., it can be very beneficial to use short-term hormone replacement therapy at as low a dose as possible to alleviate the symptoms. 

 

Hot flushes are probably worse or more common in runners with a leaner body and lower BMI just because adipose tissue or fat is a source of estrogen production in larger women.

 

 

Lynn Pitson, MD

Salisbury, NC


DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. Clinic pieces are edited and details are changed. In some cases pieces represent composites from several queries to, and answers from, the Clinic Advisory Board.

 

The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.



 

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® January / February 2012 • Volume 30, Number 1)




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