When it comes to physical fitness, forget the hormones

Posted by on Jan 11, 2010 in exercise, HRT, physical fitness | 2 comments


Hey. We’re all going to get there one day – slowing down, lower coordination, challenged balance, right? Hmm, maybe not. At least I’d like to think that it’s possible to delay or stave off the natural physical decline of aging. So what’s the deal anyhow?

Estrogen strikes again!

Declining levels of estrogen as a women ages are linked to changes within the body that directly affect physical function. And like many other age-related changes that occur, hormone therapy has been overpromised as a panacea for physical functioning. In fact, for years, women have been advised the hormone therapy might benefit and even improve overall functioning. Yet, reports supporting this particular benefit of hormone therapy have been inconsistent, with some showing improvements and other, actually showing detriment.

The latest evidence to emerge against hormone therapy comes from a comprehensive analysis of 2,400 older postmenopausal women who had taken HRT or placebo tablet. The women had all been part of the the Women’s Health Initiative Study, which, as you may recall, was halted when HRT was found to increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer.

In the analysis, women were assessed for physical function (i.e., grip strength, chair stand – the number of times a woman could stand up from a chair without using her arms and timed walk – the time it took to walk a 6-meter course)  at the study’s start, and at 1, 3 and 6 years.

What they found.

Over the study’s course:

  • Grip strength declined by 12%
  • Chair stands declined by 3.5%
  • Walk pace slowed by 11.4%
  • No differences in physical function were seen in women taking HRT compared to those who had taken placebo

The overall conclusion? Hormones will not slow or benefit physical declines that occur as we age.

So, are we all doomed?

Studies suggest that to stave off physical declines as we age, we need to keep moving! Walking for 30 minutes a day can help to maintain bone strength.  Yoga and bo su can help build and maintain balance.  Tai Chi or Chi Gung can assist with focus and keep those muscles suppple. Whatever you do, it’s a use it or lose it proposition.

What’s your strategy?

Want to read more? Reuter’s Health has an excellent write-up on this study. (Special thanks to Executive Editor Ivan Oransky for pointing me to these data.)


  1. 1-11-2010

    My strategy is to do NOW what I know I can do forever.
    I laugh to my husband that Im not working out obsessively now so that i can stick to this same plan when Im 80…but Im not really joking.

    30 minutes of ACTIVE SOMETHING.


    For my heart. my bones. my health. my stresslevel. my spirit.

  2. 1-12-2010

    More great reasons to keep moving!

    Thanks Liz!

    P.S.Having a big dog sure enforces walking for at least 30 minutes a day


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