The idea that exercise can help ease depression is not new, but the concept that stretching could help alleviate menopausal and depressive symptoms is relatively untested.
A research team in Japan recently released a study outlining their examination of how ten minutes of stretching before bed could help reduce symptoms. The results suggest that stretching sparked improvements in the treatment group, but there are serious issues with the study that bring the utility of its findings into question.
Japanese Stretching Study: Summary
- There were 40 participants: Japanese women between the ages of 40 and 61
- Participants were randomly assigned to either perform 10 minutes of daily stretching before bed each day for three weeks, or to remain sedentary during this period
- Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, chills, psychological symptoms like mood or sleep disturbances, and body aches were evaluated
- Depressive symptoms were assessed using a separate scale
- The women who stretched reported improved menopause and depression symptoms, though neither group showed reduced rates of hot flashes
Issues with This Study
Although any attempt at research is to be encouraged, all results are not created equal. The study concludes that the findings suggest 10 minutes of stretching to be able to reduce menopausal and depressive symptoms in Japanese women, but there are too many weaknesses in the study to really say so with confidence.
- 20 participants in each group is an extremely small sample and prone to distortions and false positives and negatives
- The stretching group had a 75% compliance rate, meaning the final pool of subjects was 15 in the treatment group and 20 in the control group, further exacerbating the size problem
- The study is comparing stretching to doing nothing before bed, not stretching to whatever the women would normally do. This means the observed effects could be from movement alone, the exercise of the stretching, or simply by not doing what the women might normally engage in
Although the idea that stretching before bed could help ease menopause and depression symptoms is a good line of investigation, the Japanese study has too many weaknesses to be considered useful data. If a connection is to be found, it would require a larger sample size and better controls before any real suggestions of benefit can be made.
“Stretching may ease women’s depression and menopause symptoms,” Pulse web site, July 29, 2016; http://pulse.ng/health/study-stretching-may-ease-womens-depression-and-menopause-symptoms-id5319843.html, last accessed August 1, 2016.
Kai, Y., et. al., “Effects of stretching on menopausal and depressive symptoms in middle-aged women: a randomized controlled trial,” Menopause, 2016l 10.1097/GME.0000000000000651.