Pilates Helps With Menopause


When many people think of treatment for menopause, hormone replacement therapy comes to mind.  However, hormone replacement therapy is a complicated undertaking which depends on the person. On the other hand, exercise--a form of lifestyle modification--benefits a variety of conditions including menopause. More specifically, new research suggests that Pilates may improve quality of life in those in climacteric, a period that begins after the first symptoms of menopause and extends 5 to 10 years postmenopause.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a popular form of exercise which involves core stability, strength, and exercise. During Pilates, special attention is paid to muscle control, posture and breathing. Pilates is composed of exercises that focus on lumbar-pelvic stabilization. Such exercise improves posture and muscle strength and increases flexibility.

Pilates is performed in a number of contexts including:

  • physical and mental training
  • rehabilitation
  • health promotion
  • disease prevention

Pilates can either be performed on a mat or using special equipment like the Reformer, the Cadillac, the Wunda Chair and the Ladder Barrel.

Menopause and Pilates

Menopausal transition is a continuum of endocrinology change. The WHO defines menopause as beginning after 12 consecutive months of amenorrhea (12 months after your last period). Although age at menopause varies, it typically occurs in women in their early 50s. Currently with extended life spans experienced by many people, most women can expect to live a third of their life in postmenopause.

During menopause, women sometimes complain of the following:

  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • mood swings
  • vaginal dryness
  • painful sexual intercourse
  • joint pain and stiffness
  • muscle aches

A body of research has shown that exercise and physical activity improve quality of life measures in  women who have undergone menopause.

Fewer studies have examined the benefit of Pilates in such women.

In an article titled "An observational study on the effects of Pilates on quality of life in women during menopause," which was published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, Spanish researchers studied physical, psychological and social changes in climacteric women.

This prospective observational study was small (low power) and examined only 27 women aged between 38 and 63. Moreover, attrition was high with 25 percent of women dropping out of the study. Participants in the study took part in twice-weekly Pilates sessions which progressed from beginner to more advanced exercise.

Investigators examined health-related quality of life using a questionnaire (SF-36) which in gross terms examined both physical and mental health. Specifically, this questionnaire looked at:

  • physical function
  • role physical
  • role emotional
  • bodily pain
  • general health
  • mental health
  • vitality
  • social functioning

Based on results from the SF-36 taken before and after 12 weeks of Pilates sessions, researchers concluded that Pilates improved mental and physical health in participants.

When dealing with the discomfort of menopause, hormones are by no means a sole solution. For instance, exercise like Pilates can make you feel better and more healthy during this normal transition in your life. Furthermore, the menopausal transition often coincides with several other potential stressors like an empty nest, retirement, downsizing and so forth. Maybe getting out of the house, doing some Pilates at the gym and making friends with other like-minded and fitness-oriented individuals is just what the proverbial doctor ordered when coping with menopause.

Selected Sources

Hoffman BL, Schorge JO, Schaffer JI, Halvorson LM, Bradshaw KD, Cunningham F, Calver LE. Chapter 21. Menopausal Transition. In: Hoffman BL, Schorge JO, Schaffer JI, Halvorson LM, Bradshaw KD, Cunningham F, Calver LE. eds.Williams Gynecology, 2e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012. Accessed March 02, 2015.

Article titled "An observational study on the effects of Pilates on quality of life in women during menopause" by G Rodriguez-Fuentes and co-authors published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine in 2014.

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