Pilates and yoga appear to relieve the symptoms of menopause

Pilates and yoga, often referred to as “mind-body” activities, show promising benefits which include increased flexibility, improved quality of life, relief of the symptoms of menopause, and some reduction of lower back pain. The findings came from two studies presented at the 52nd American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

One study looked at the effects of yoga on quality of life and flexibility in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Researchers at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona studied six women, ages 44 to 62, who participated in a one-hour-long yoga class twice a week for eight weeks. Participants were also given a home exercise program, and instructed to practice on the days when they were not in class. The yoga program used in the study was lyengar, which focuses on a specific sequence of poses that address menstrual disorders, menopause and pregnancy.

“Five of the six women who participated in the yoga program had an increase in low back flexibility, and five out of six had reduced menopause symptoms,” said M. Alysia Mastrangelo, Ph.D., PT, lead author of the study. “Those who experienced menopause relief had a decrease in hot flashes and night sweats.”

Mastrangelo points out that a benefit of increased flexibility is that this often helps reduce lower back pain. In addition, more flexibility can one to more easily perform activities of daily living such as housekeeping, gardening and shopping.

The study that looked at benefits of Pilates-based mat exercises involved 22 people over a 12-week period. All participants had experienced some lower back pain. Fifteen participated in an hour-long Pilates-based mat exercise program, while the other seven continued their normal daily activities but did not participate in Pilates. At the end of the study, both groups had a decrease in lower back pain, but those who participated in the Pilates program had a greater reduction in pain.

“We also saw that the lower back pain was significantly decreased in certain areas of the lower spine,” said lead researcher, Susan Graves, Ed.D. “The study really raised a number of questions, and we would like to study Pilates exercise further, with larger groups, and be able to look at how different age groups do with this type of exercise as a method to control back pain. We know that many exercises are effective in helping reduce lower back pain, when done in a controlled setting. Clearly we need to understand more about why, and if there are particular techniques that provide greater benefits.”

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health, and quality of life.

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