Pelvic Floor Symptoms May Lead To Exercise Avoidance in Menopausal Women Interview with:

Dr. Eija K. Laakkonen PhD Assistant professor Gerontology Research Center Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences University of Jyväskylä

Dr. Laakkonen

Dr. Eija K. Laakkonen PhD
Assistant professor
Gerontology Research Center
Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences
University of Jyväskylä What is the background for this study?

Response: Physical activity improves health and may delay the onset of chronic diseases. For women in particular, the rate of some chronic diseases accelerates at middle age around the time of menopause; therefore it is important to identify the determinants of health-enhancing physical activity during midlife in this population.

The main aim of this study was to characterize the level of physical activity and to examine the association between different female reproductive factors and objectively-measured physical activity in middle-aged women. The reproductive factors included cumulative reproductive history index, and perceived menopausal and pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms.  What are the main findings?

Response: A total of 647 women aged 48–55 years old and living in central Finland partook in the study. We found that over 60% of them did not meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous endurance activities per week. In the studied cohort, nearly 80% of women experienced menopausal symptoms, and over 50% exhibited pelvic floor dysfunction. Perceived pelvic floor dysfunction was associated with lower time spent on moderate to vigorous physical activities while perceived menopausal symptoms were associated with greater light physical activity. After controlling for the potential confounding factors including body mass index, smoking, chronic diseases and education, the reproductive factors explained 6.0% of the variation of higher intensity and 7.5% of the variation of light physical activity. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The results emphasize that awareness of female reproductive factors, especially menopausal symptoms and pelvic floor dysfunction, of which the most common type is urinary incontinence, is important for physical activity counseling to effectively help women in performing and sustaining health-enhancing amounts of physical activity. Although this study does not answer the question of whether exercise is being avoided because of the urinary incontinence or other type of pelvic floor dysfunction, or whether more abundant exercise helped to keep symptoms in check, the study does demonstrate that these symptoms are linked to objectively-measured physical activity levels. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: In this study, we demonstrated that menopause and pelvic floor symptoms are highly commonly experienced among middle-aged women. Specifically, the condition of the pelvic floor should be taken into account when identifying the proper activity type and intensity level so that health benefits of physical activity can still be attained without worsening symptoms. Therefore, health care professionals should ask openly whether for example urinary incontinence is a barrier to exercise. If a patient is suffering from urinary incontinence or other pelvic floor symptoms, the forms of exercise they undertake should include exercises that support core and pelvic floor management without intense bouncing movements. Managing symptoms and taking them into account can help women find a form of exercise that suits them, and allow them to continue exercise in an enjoyable way also after going through menopause. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This study was first to provide a connection between reproductive health factors and objectively measured physical activity.  It is a part of the broad, ongoing ERMA research project, which investigates the impacts of menopause on body and muscle composition, muscle performance, mental well-being, physical activity behaviour and biological health indicators, as well as the molecular mechanisms between them. ERMA project is being carried out in collaboration between the Gerontology Research Center of the University of Jyväskylä, LIKES Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health, the Central Finland Central Hospital and the University of Minnesota. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


PLoS One. 2017 Feb 22;12(2):e0172054. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172054. eCollection 2017.

Female reproductive factors are associated with objectively measured physical activity in middle-aged women.

Laakkonen EK1,2, Kulmala J3, Aukee P4, Hakonen H3, Kujala UM5, Lowe DA2, Kovanen V5, Tammelin T3, Sipilä S1.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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