Never too late: reaping the benefits of exercise in early postmenopause

Women recently postmenopause have similar or improved benefits from physical activity, in terms of muscle and blood vessel function, as those premenopause. Therefore, early postmenopause might be a time when women can gain increased benefit from physical activity to oppose negative effects of oestrogen loss and aging.

This research, published in The Journal of Physiology, was conducted by Professor Hellsten and her team at the University of Copenhagen.

Postmenopausal women are deprived of oestrogen, a hormone with a strong positive effect on muscle and blood vessel function. Previous research had shown that the beneficial impact of physical activity is reduced or absent in postmenopausal women.

This research suggests that the effects of different stages of menopause on physical exercise cannot be lumped together.

The participants were 36 middle-aged pre and postmenopausal women only a few years apart in age. After a 12-week training regimen of high intensity cycling, Professor Hellsten and her colleagues determined the effect of training on the women’s muscles and blood vessels using a series of physiological tests. To look at molecular changes, they took tissue samples from thigh muscles.  

Less invasive tests in larger and more diverse populations will be important in order to confirm these findings.

Elaborating on the findings, first author Michael Nyberg said,

‘The present study pinpoints a possible signalling pathway at the cellular level that may underlie the higher sensitivity to physical activity in recent postmenopausal women. Future studies should, therefore, further explore this pathway in both animal and human models.’ 

Participants of study










IMAGE: This is a snapshot of 12-week training regimen of pre and post-menopausal women who participate in the study.

Notes for Editors

1. Full paper title: Leg vascular and skeletal muscle mitochondrial adaptations to aerobic high intensity exercise training are enhanced in the early postmenopausal phase DOI: 10.1113/JP273871 Link to paper

2. The Journal of Physiology publishes advances in physiology which increase our understanding of how our bodies function in health and disease. 

3. The Physiological Society brings together over 3,500 scientists from over 60 countries. The Society promotes physiology with the public and parliament alike. It supports physiologists by organising world-class conferences and offering grants for research and also publishes the latest developments in the field in its three leading scientific journals, The Journal of Physiology, Experimental Physiology and Physiological Reports. 



The Physiological Society: 

Julia Turan, Communications Manager 

+44 (0)20 7269 572 


Corresponding author:

Dr. Michael Nyberg,

University of Copenhagen

Phone: 0045 35321609