Exercise Protects Your Brain in Menopause

Woman doing an exercise ball assisted plank

Some people love to exercise, but for many it's a chore. Sometimes the desire to lose weight will get you off the couch. Sometimes it won't. And now another study has been done to suggest it's more than your belly that benefits – your brain does too!1

Exercise, beyond a doubt, is one of the best insurance policies that you can get to keep you sharper for longer.

In my new book, The Estrogen Window, I explain how loss of estrogen at the time of menopause affects most of the organs of the body.

It often leads to osteoporosis or thinning of the bones, increases in heart disease and loss of cognition. In fact, the brain is one of the biggest targets for estrogen.2 So when menopause hits and estrogen levels drop, it shouldn't be a surprise that brain function goes down with estrogen levels. That affects cognition, attention, and learning; all the brain fog and forgetting where the car is parked. Estrogen accomplishes this in large part by helping brain cells survive and one of the areas of the brain most involved in cognition and affected by estrogen is the hippocampus.

How Exercise Helps

We know that exercise helps women in menopause protect their brain function3.

It helps the brain function and prevents cell death. Exercise helps protect against stress, anxiety, depression and anxiety. All this sounds pretty darn good.

However, there haven't been any studies that have focused on the hippocampus.

That is what this study did. Since it isn't possible to get women volunteers for brain studies, the researchers used adult female rats and studied their brains after taking out their ovaries. Then they divided them into several groups depending on whether they got exercise or not or if they had a sham operation and had their ovaries left in.

Based on this study, rats that had their ovaries removed and didn't exercise had significant problems with memory and brain degeneration. Those rats that had their ovaries removed but had a rigorous aerobic and anaerobic exercise regimen actually increased their memory in the short-term. As expected, it didn't continue that way and they still lost some memory but less than the rats with ovaries removed that didn't exercise. This is comparable to human studies that have shown fitness training increased executive function, scheduling, working memory, planning and more.

Bottom Line

What can take from all this information? It really important to get off the couch whether you are taking or making estrogen or not. Estrogen is going to be a huge help to help you maintain your brain. Estrogen plus exercise is the perfect antidote to brain function loss from aging. It's an invaluable recommendation for you for a long and vibrant life.


1. Kim T-W, Kim C-S, Seo J-H.  Combined exercise ameliorates ovariectomy-induced cognitive impairment by enhancing cell proliferation and suppressing apoptosis. Menopause 2016;23:18-26.

2. McEwen B. Estrogen actions throughout the brain. Recent Prog Hor Res 2002;57:357-384

3. Asikainen TM, Kukkonen–Harjula K, Millunpallo S: Exercise for health for early menopausal women: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sports Med 2004;34:753-778.

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