To examine longitudinal changes in physical performance during the menopausal transition and the role of physical activity (PA) in these changes.
Based on follicle-stimulating hormone levels and bleeding diaries, women (47-55 years) were classified as early (n=89) and late perimenopausal (n=143) and followed prospectively until postmenopausal status, with mean duration of 17.5 and 13.8 months respectively. Physical performance was measured by handgrip force, knee extension torque, vertical jumping height, maximal walking speed and six-minute walking distance. PA was self-reported and categorized as low, medium, high. Longitudinal associations of menopausal status, physical performance and related changes with PA level were analyzed using generalized estimation equations adjusted for duration of hormonal therapy.
A significant decline over the menopausal transition in handgrip force (-2.1%, 95% CI -3.8 to -0.4), knee extension torque (-2.6%, 95% CI -4.5 to -0.8) and vertical jumping height (-2.6%, 95% CI -4.2 to -1.1) and a significant increase in six-minute walking distance (2.1%, 95% CI 1.4 to 2.7) were observed in the total sample. A significant interaction of PA by time was observed in handgrip force and in vertical jumping height. High PA women had greater increase in handgrip strength but greater decline in vertical jumping height than medium, low and inactive women (all p ≤0.001).
Both early and late perimenopausal women show decline in muscle strength and power during the transition to postmenopause. PA seems to influence physical performance during the menopausal transition but understanding the benefits of PA require interventional studies.

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.