Participate in Menopausal Research!

Our study consists of 3 visits to the Smith college research lab and a 100$ gift card if you complete all 3 visits.
The study focuses on peri-menopausal individuals between the ages of 40-65. The aim of our study is to understand the effect of physical activity on hot flashes.

If you are interested, contact to participate in our study!

Michelle Flesaker’s Paper on Menopause, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Quality of Life Accepted in the Journal Menopause

Michelle Flesaker, a junior at Smith College, had her manuscript titled “The role of cardiorespiratory fitness on quality of life in midlife women” accepted in the journal Menopause, of the North American Menopause Society. This is an extraordinary achievement for Michelle! 

Midlife is a challenge to women due to what is known as the “squeeze” where many women in this age range are working to advance their careers, taking care of children, caring for aging parents, while experiencing the physiological effects of menopause and health declines due to aging. These midlife experiences may impact a woman’s quality of life.  Therefore, midlife may be a critical window of opportunity to improve quality of life in women. 

Improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) or aerobic exercise capacity, is well known to reduce the risk of disease. Michelle was interested in whether CRF was related to the self-reported perception of quality of life (QOL). Healthy women aged 40-65 completed the Utian Quality of Life questionnaire, a treadmill stress test to measure CRF, a self-reported physical activity questionnaire, and more. Michelle determined that CRF was a significant predictor of women’s overall QOL. Michelle’s paper highlights the importance of CRF for midlife women. The results suggest that healthcare practitioners would benefit from targeting CRF as an important health indicator beyond its ability to predict and reduce disease risk.

Join us in congratulating Michelle on her amazing work!

Sarah Seron Awarded the NEACSM 2020 Undergraduate Research Experience Grant

Sarah Seron, a pre-health student and Ada Comstock Scholar at Smith College, was awarded the NEACSM (New England regional chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine) 2020 Undergraduate Research Experience Grant. The grant is awarded to highlight professional and academic excellence in undergraduate students attending non-R1 institutions in the New England states.

Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. The health of the inside of the blood vessels can provide important information about CVD risk. Endothelial Microparticles (EMPs) are fragments of the inside of the blood vessel wall that may help us identify women who may be at higher risk, or how various therapies may reduce CVD risk in women (see figure below).

Art by: Justine Wagaman

Sarah’s research involves improving the evaluation of EMPs with Imaging Flow Cytometry, a method of analysis that may provide a better way to measure EMP compared with traditional flow cytometry. Sarah’s aims are to develop the protocol for EMP evaluation with Imaging Flow Cytometry and compare the two methods. 

Sarah’s work with this grant will facilitate our lab’s research on midlife women’s health. Midlife is a time for women where the risk for CVD increases dramatically. The ability to monitor blood vessel health during this time will help us understand the best ways to mitigate the increase in CVD risk for women.  Her research is paving the way toward a greater understanding of EMPs by creating an improved technique for looking at these fascinating microparticles. 

We are very proud of Sarah’s accomplishment. Congratulations! 

Witkowski Lab Research on Menopause is highlighted in Smith’s Alumnae Quarterly

Our lab has a longitudinal study underway to evaluate the role of physical activity in women who transition into and through menopause.
The research consists of completing an online menopause questionnaire each year for women between the ages of 40-65.
If you are interested, contact to participate in our study!
Thank you @SAQ for including us in the fall 2020 magazine!

New online survey study


We are excited the announce of the launch of our new online questionnaire study!  The study, entirely online, consists of a yearly 30-minute questionnaire designed to investigate the relationship between physical activity and menopausal symptoms as women progress through the stages of menopause.  If you are a woman between the ages 40-65, you may qualify.

Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstrual periods; however, symptoms associated with menopause can follow for years before and after the final menstrual period.  We are interested in evaluating whether physical activity patterns relate to symptoms pre- and post-menopause.

The online questionnaire will ask about your physical activity, menopause and obstetrical history, and menopause symptoms each year.  The questionnaire will take about 30 minutes to complete each year.  There is no compensation for participation.

Contact us at or 413-585-7034 if you are interested.

Congratulations to our graduates!

Abigail Edwards, a major in Race, Health and Society and Jacqueline Urdang, a major in Biology, successfully graduated from Smith!  Abigail will begin an internship at the NCAA in June and Jacqueline is headed for a career in medicine!  Congratulations to two dedicated lab members!

Witkowski Lab receives NIH funding to study physical activity, hot flashes and blood vessel function

Menopausal hot flashes have traditionally been considered a bothersome quality of life issue for women. However, hot flashes are now recognized to be a potential marker of disease risk. Increased frequency and severity of hot flashes have been positively associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, subclinical CVD markers, clinical cardiovascular events, and CVD mortality. Recent data showed that a higher frequency of hot flashes (e.g. number per day) was associated with lower vascular endothelial function in women early in the menopausal transition.

Habitual physical activity and high cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with many health benefits. However, the effectiveness of exercise to reduce hot flashes is equivocal, in part due to lack of objective assessments of hot flashes and physical activity.  Further, surprisingly, the majority of the literature does not demonstrate a protective role of exercise training, habitual physical activity, or fitness on the reduction of endothelial dysfunction with menopause. These studies have not considered factors particular to midlife women, such as hot flashes, that may be associated with their vascular responsiveness to exercise. Therefore, the overall goal of this project is to determine whether habitual physical activity and exercise influence hot flash experience and whether habitual activity and hot flashes influence vascular function in peri-menopausal women.

If you are interested in learning more about this study, please email,

Michelle Flesaker presents at NEACSM

Second year lab member, Michelle Flesaker presented her research entitled, “Menopause-Associated Psychological Symptoms and Physical Activity in Midlife Women” at the 2019 New England American College of Sports Medicine conference in Providence, RI.

Her analysis of self-reported data revealed that higher levels of physical activity were related to fewer negative psychological and fewer vasomotor symptoms in our population. The preliminary data suggest that habitual physical activity may aid in the management of physiological and psychological symptoms of menopause.