If hormonal changes during menopause decrease the muscle mass of women, regular physical activity can slow its decrease, researchers found in a recent study.

Hot flushes, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbances ... are among the many symptoms that appear at menopause. This can also be accompanied by health concerns which can settle gradually hence the interest of medical monitoring which allows them to be detected quickly and taken care of. These health problems can be vaginal dryness, genitourinary disorders, osteoporosis or cardiovascular problems. The women concerned are also more at risk of overweight, a trend which is explained by a decrease in muscle mass and a change in the distribution of fat which essentially accumulates on the stomach.

Health Insurance emphasizes that between 42 and 50 years, the average weight gain is 0.8 kg per year and even 1.5 kg for 20% of women. These include the drop in estrogen, a decrease in muscle mass and energy expenditure and sometimes, new eating habits. To offset the effect of estrogen loss on muscles, nothing better than practicing physical activity in all its forms, as researchers from the Finnish University of Jyväskylä say in a study. Published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, it indicates that it appears to be positively associated with the maintenance of muscle mass during the menopausal transition.

Muscle mass decreases by at least 1%

"We already knew that estrogens play a role in regulating muscle properties," notes Professor Hanna-Kaarina Juppi who participated in the study. The researchers followed women aged 47 to 55 during their menopausal transition, that is to say the years corresponding to perimenopause (the transition stage before menopause, the end of menstruation) and which lead to the last menstruation, a period characterized by changes in the menstrual cycle. At the start of the study, 381 participants were in perimenopause, while 234 had reached an early postmenopause (period following the final cessation of menstruation) during this period.

The researchers measured the participants' muscle mass during perimenopause and just after the onset of postmenopause. The women were on average 51 and a half years old at the start of the study and 53 at the time of the final measurements, so that the average duration of the menopausal transition was an average of 1.5 years. If the time needed for a woman to go through menopause is unique (in this study, it varied from less than six months to more than three years), they nevertheless found that during this time, the decrease in muscle mass was on average from 1%. A change which does not seem very important but which is in reality to be taken into account.

The importance of good muscle mass for the body

Indeed, "what is important to emphasize is that the decrease occurs in a short period of time and that it can have an impact on the metabolism because the muscles contribute strongly to the regulation of the metabolism of the whole body" , adds Professor Hanna-Kaarina Juppi. Scientists have found that physically active women have higher muscle mass before and after their menopause than less active women. So even if menopause decreases muscle mass, staying physically active between perimenopause and postmenopause, when estrogen production decreases, can help women slow this change.

Practicing regular physical activity during this period is all the more important since this habit also reduces other risks linked to menopause (cardiovascular, weight gain, osteoporosis, etc.). In addition, if a treatment can be offered when the symptoms become bothersome, it "will always be associated with hygienic diet advice: smoking cessation, moderate alcohol consumption, diversified diet and regular physical activity," says Sickness Insurance. . In this regard, the "Eat-Move" program recommends practicing 30 minutes a day of physical activity, such as muscle building and flexibility exercises.