An age-related decline in muscle performance is a known risk factor for falling, fracture and disability. In women, a clear deterioration is observed from early menopause. The effect of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in preserving muscle performance is, however, unclear. This trial examined the effects of a 12-month HRT and high-impact physical exercise regimen on skeletal muscle in women in early menopause. A total of 80 women aged 50–57 years were assigned randomly to one of four groups: exercise (Ex), HRT, exercise+HRT (ExHRT) and control (Co). The exercise groups participated in a high-impact training programme. The administration of HRT (oestradiol/noretisterone acetate) or placebo was carried out double-blind. Knee extension torque and vertical jumping height were evaluated. Lean tissue cross-sectional area (LCSA) and the relative proportion of fat within the muscle compartment were measured for the quadriceps and lower leg muscles. The ExHRT group showed significant increases in knee extension torque (8.3%) and vertical jumping height (17.2%) when compared with the Co group (-7.2%). Vertical jumping height also increased after HRT alone (6.8%). The LCSA of the quadriceps was increased significantly in the HRT (6.3%) and ExHRT (7.1%) groups when compared with the Ex (2.2%) and Co (0.7%) groups. Lower leg LCSA was also increased in the ExHRT group (9.1%) when compared with the Ex (3.0%) and Co (4.1%) groups. In addition, the increase in the relative proportion of fat in the quadriceps in the Co group (16.6%) was significant compared with those in the HRT (4.9%) and ExHRT (-0.6%) groups. Thus, in post-menopausal women, muscle performance, muscle mass and muscle composition are improved by HRT. The beneficial effects of HRT combined with high-impact physical training may exceed those of HRT alone.

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