Loss of estrogen during menopause may raise a woman’s risk of heart disease, but this increase may be offset with team activities and sports like floorball, a new study from the University of Copenhagen finds.

Postdoctoral fellow and lead author Michael Nyberg told reporters that the findings build on previous research on postmenopausal health risks. "Results demonstrate that blood pressure among postmenopausal women is 10 percent higher immediately after menopause than in similarly-aged, premenopausal women,” he said. “They also had higher levels of an early marker for arteriosclerosis."

The study, which is published in The American Journal of Physiology, shows that these adverse effects may be reined in with some team-based exercise. For their investigation, the researcher picked floorball. For the uninitiated: Floorball is a type of floor hockey extremely popular in Scandinavia and, according to “Generation Floorball,” sort of popular in the U.S.

According to Jens Bangsbo, senior author and director of the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Team Sport and Health, the 13 postmenopausal women involved in the study showed clear results surprisingly fast. "Following just 12 weeks of twice weekly practices, the women's conditions had improved and their blood pressure was reduced by four millimeters of mercury, which correlates with a 40 percent lower risk of stroke," he explained. "Furthermore, there was a positive development in relation to levels of substances vital to blood vessel function, including a 20 percent decrease in markers associated with arteriosclerosis."

While several previous studies have linked similar health benefits to regular exercise, the authors believe floorball and similar sports stand out, as they require constant teamwork and commitment. This way, adherence to the workout regimen naturally becomes much easier. It’s also way more fun, Nyberg adds.

“Floorball training is intense, with many short sprints, directional changes, and a high pulse achieved –– but participants don't really pay attention to all of this,” he explained. “This high intensity is one of the primary reasons that these women were able to achieve such great health benefits in just 12 weeks.”

Team Sports and Your Heart

Cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke are currently the nation’s most common causes of death, killing around 2,200 Americans every day. Arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure are both considered precursors of these complications. You can learn more about heart disease and how to prevent it here.

Ultimately, team sports focusing on explosive interval exercise may be favorable alternatives to traditional pharmacological solutions like hormone therapy. Floorball, after all, doesn’t come with any side-effects. "The fact that participants thought that it was fun and enjoyed being with other women also lead to their insistence on continuing with the sport after the study's conclusion –– which addresses a fundamental issue: How is it possible to motivate and not least, keep people interested in a healthy physical activity,” Bangsbo told reporters. “Team sport is the answer."

Source: Nyberg M, Seidelin K, Rostgaard Andersen T, Neumann Overby N, Hellsten Y, Bangsbo J. Biomarkers of vascular function in pre- and post-menopausal women of similar are: effects of exercise training. The American Journal of Physiology. 2014.