Stretching may ease women's depression and menopause symptoms

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Menopausal Symptoms Tend to Last Longer Than Expected

(Reuters Health) – Stretching just 10 minutes a day might help ease menopause and depression symptoms in middle-aged women, a small study suggests.

"Light-intensity exercises such as stretching have not been previously evaluated for its impact on menopausal and depressive symptoms," lead researcher Yuko Kai told Reuters Health by email.

Forty Japanese women, ages 40 to 61 years, participated in the study at the Physical Fitness Research Institute, Meiji Yasuda Life Foundation of Health and Welfare in Tokyo.

Twenty of the women were randomly assigned to stretch 10 minutes a day before bedtime for three weeks. The other 20 were instructed to remain sedentary before bed.

SEE ALSO: Mom shocked as she delivers baby boy -- after doctor and ultrasound said it would be a girl

The research team evaluated the women's menopausal symptoms using 10 questions about vasomotor symptoms (such as hot flashes and chills), psychological symptoms (including mood and sleep disturbances) and body aches.

They used a separate set of questions to evaluate symptoms of depression.

At the start, the groups were generally similar. More than half the participants were postmenopausal and nearly two-thirds had depression. Most of the women were not physically active.

On average, the stretching group stretched about five days per week.

Overall, the women in the stretching group had improved scores on both sets of questions after the three-week study period, compared to the group that didn't stretch before bed.

The frequency of hot flashes wasn't different in the two groups, however.

While stretching before bed isn't a bad idea, Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of The North American Menopause Society, told Reuters Health by email, "it is impossible to tell if the positive effect found from stretching on menopausal and depressive symptoms was due to the stretching, the increased movement, or not doing whatever they normally do during the 10 minutes before bed such as eat, smoke or drink, etc."

Pinkerton said the results would have been more interesting if the comparison group had been assigned a task to do before bedtime, to see if it was the stretching itself that was helpful or just the fact of doing something before bed.

Related: Notable people who have battled or who are battling depression:

Notable people who have battled/are battling depression
See Gallery
Notable people who have battled/are battling depression
Jon Hamm with the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for âMad Menâ poses in the press room at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
The Princess of Wales goes on a walkabout outside the Mortimer Market Centre in London, which she visited as patron of the National Aids Trust, Thursday June 27, 1996. The Princess heard about the latest developments in treatment and care for people with HIV/AIDS and she met staff and patients at the clinic. (AP Photo/Louisa Buller)
Owen Wilson arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "She's Funny That Way" at the Harmony Gold theater on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Gwyneth Paltrow arrives at the amfAR Inspiration Gala at Milk Studios on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Ashley Judd attends the 2015 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Saturday, April 25, 2015, in Washington. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
** FILE ** In this Nov. 6, 2006 file photo, actor Heath Ledger arrives for the premiere of his new film "Candy" in New York. Ledger's performance in the Batman tale "The Dark Knight" is so remarkable that next Jan. 22, the one-year anniversary of his death, he could become just the seventh actor in Oscar history to earn a posthumous nomination. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh, file)
Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 12/11/15 Demi Lovato at Z100's iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2015. (NYC)
Actor David Arquette attends the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner headlined by late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel, Saturday, April 28, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Catherine Zeta-Jones arrives at the LA premiere of "Red 2" at the Westwood Village on Thursday, July 11, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Brooke Shields attends the 18th Annual Super Saturday fundraiser to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at Nova's Ark Project in Water Mill on Saturday, July 25, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
Actress Winona Ryder attends a special screening of "The Iceman" hosted by Grey Goose Vodka on Monday April, 29, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

In most studies of methods for reducing hot flashes, the placebo group sees some improvement, too, she pointed out. In this trial, the comparison group had no improvement at all, which means, she said, that it was not an adequate control group.

For more conclusive results, Pinkerton said, "this study needs to be replicated with larger, more diverse postmenopausal women with an active control group."

In the meantime, she added, women should remember that "being sedentary has been shown to be bad for (their) physical and mental health and to increase hot flashes. Being active every day has been shown to lessen severity of hot flashes, improve mood, coping ability and may decrease (their) risk of cognitive loss."

Additionally, Pinkerton said, "if women were to exercise with light walking 30 minutes daily and then stretch for 10 minutes, they might improve health, menopausal symptoms, mood and cognition and, if stretching helps sleep, improve their sleep quality."

SOURCE: Menopause, online June 13, 2016.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Best Bites by AOL and receive delicious recipes delivered to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.