Can Pilates mat exercises help early postmenopausal women to gain strength and flexibility and reduce menopausal symptoms? Korea University researchers wanted to find out, as little research exists on this group.

Investigators randomly assigned 74 women (aged 45–60) to either an exercise group or a control group. All women had been in the menopausal stage for at least 1 year and had not participated in any formal exercise program or taken medication to relieve menopausal symptoms. Pilates group members performed a Pilates mat program (approximately 1 hour) three times a week for 8 weeks. Control group members lived life as usual.

Data analysis after 8 weeks showed significant improvements in lower-back strength and hamstring flexibility and a decrease in menopausal symptoms—except for those related to genitourinary syndrome of menopause (vaginal dryness and urinary problems)—among women who did Pilates compared with nonexercisers. Since the 8-week program had positive effects for participants, the study authors recommended that ongoing participation in Pilates exercise may enhance health and the ability to live independently after menopause.

The study appeared in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation (2016; 12 [3], 247–51]) and is open source. More research is needed on this topic.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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