How does exercise affect the menstrual cycle?
It is a known fact that doing heavy sports during the menstrual period strains the body. Some studies show that intense exercise can shorten your period or cause irregular periods. Is it necessary to take a break from sports while menstruating? At which stages of the menstrual cycle can exercise be done?
“Is it allowed to do sports during menstruation?” A more appropriate way to answer the question by looking at the entire menstrual cycle, the menstrual cycle. If you determine the sports and exercise program according to your menstrual cycle, it is possible to stay away from sports and avoid premenstrual tension such as PMS.
First of all, it is necessary to know the menstrual cycle. A menstrual cycle consists of different phases. Female hormones are secreted at different levels in different phases throughout a menstrual cycle. The follicular phase, which is the first phase, starts from the day of menstrual bleeding and continues until ovulation (ovulation). The luteal phase covers the period starting from ovulation until the day of menstrual bleeding.
It is known that regular exercise has many benefits. However, it is known that intense exercise may be associated with some menstrual disorders such as oligomenorrhea (delayed menstruation), amenorrhea (menstrual irregularity), anovulation (absence of ovulation). Some studies attribute this to the relationship between exercise and increased cortisol levels in the luteal and follicular phases.
On the other hand, estrogen shows antioxidant properties and reduces muscle damage. This helps lower exercise-induced muscle damage in women than men. In addition, heart rate variability, which is the parameter that best reflects the changes caused by exercise, is not affected by the menstrual phases. Therefore, the menstrual cycle is not an obstacle for women altogether. If you want to exercise in line with your cycle, you can do the intense exercises you are used to in the second week of the menstrual cycle. The secret is to follow your own cycle and rest especially the first 3 days of menstrual bleeding.
What is the effect of sports on menstrual bleeding?
Many factors such as athlete motivation, performance, nutrition, muscle repair are affected by the menstrual cycle. However, it would not be wrong to say that medicine and sports world are still mostly male-dominated. While most of the studies are conducted on male subjects, it is criticized that the variables in athletes’ performance are based on the male body and that women’s menstrual cycles are not taken into account. Women’s individual cycles make research more detailed and costly. This is within the scope of the scientific methodology discussions of the job …
It still seems challenging for professional athletes to follow competition programs. For those who do sports as amateurs, some individual trainers and sports coaches have already started working by considering the effects of the menstrual cycle.
According to the report of The Guardian Newspaper, who runs a gym Evgenia Korolevaoffers exercise programs prepared according to each individual’s cycle. Koroleva says that common fat loss, nutrition, and exercise programs are designed for men who do not experience hormonal fluctuations during the month. In addition to adapting to the changes experienced by the body in the personalized exercise programs it creates, it also predicts to benefit from these changes. Personal wellness programs prepared according to the menstrual cycle say; “Just as your cycle is not a stumbling block to you, your main strength is in your cycle.”
According to Koroleva, when we work with the body when we don’t fight it, it becomes easier to stick to a rigorous training schedule. Working in harmony with hormonal changes, not only physical appearance and sports performance improve. Hormonal change becomes a source of strength. In the individual programs he prepares, there are more demanding exercises for when the body can perform at its highest, and practices that teach to withdraw when it needs rest and recovery. The trainer, who works in the UK and also runs online programs, recommends that women adapt to the unique rhythm of their body.
Which exercise in which phase?
Testosterone rises in the body during ovulation and this is when you can do high-intensity training and cardio exercise due to its energy level. Care should also be taken for bodily injuries during the time of ovulation. There is some evidence that when estrogen is high, the risk of injury increases around the late follicular phase as the hormone makes the ligaments and tendons looser. For example, you may be more likely to have an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (knee). For this reason, you should do better warming and cooling exercises afterwards.
The phase in which estrogen rises is also a time when your mood rises and you can be motivated. In addition to all these, your ability to activate the muscles increases thanks to neuromuscular effects. This period is a good time to build muscle mass. Estrogen is also thought to have a protective function against muscle damage. While the ability to recover after training increases, the inflammation effect decreases. Thus, you will experience less muscle pain. The quicker recovery also allows you to adapt better to training.
In the middle luteal phase, progesterone rises along with estrogen, and this may limit some of the effects of estrogen. Your basal body temperature rises. Therefore, if you play endurance sports, you may struggle a little more in a hot environment, but you should also use cooling strategies. Progesterone also has a calming effect. It can increase sleep and also appears to affect the way the brain acquires new skills. Trying to change a technique you use in sports or learning a new choreography may be more difficult at this stage.
After the third week, you should lighten your training program and return to restorative exercises such as yoga and pilates. These are suitable times for medium-tempo long walks and low-intensity exercises instead of strength training and challenging exercises.
On the first day of menstrual bleeding, it is appropriate to provide the rest of the body to the rest and return to the exercise program on the third to fifth day with refreshing light walks. This is “Is it possible to walk while menstruating?” answers the question. Light exercises that increase the endorphin hormone would be a good option to prevent symptoms related to PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), ie premenstrual tension.
When menstrual bleeding occurs, it is customary to hold on to pads and tampons to be able to continue exercising as usual. However, in the first 3 days of menstrual bleeding, the body’s need for rest is extreme. If you do not want to disrupt your schedule, you can start with a light walk from the third day and return to sports as one of the exercises that can be done during the menstrual period. In the first 3 days, you can spend the movement needs of the body with light yoga poses, especially yoga postures such as frog sitting that are good for menstrual pain and help to remove the menstrual cycle. It goes without saying that if you have regular yoga practice you should avoid inverse postures. You can apply the wall-supported viparita Karani pose without elevating the hip.
Does exercising during menstruation weaken?
There is an opinion circulating from ear to ear that exercising helps to weaken on days when menstrual bleeding continues. “Does exercising with menstruation weaken?” The question is asked by some. Before giving the scientific explanation of the answer, a brief hint should be given; Putting more emphasis on sports to lose weight during the menstrual period can cause the opposite of the desired results. Some studies have found that estrogen reduces the amount of carbohydrates the body uses for exercise, instead burning fat. However, this does not result in the weakening of exercising during menstruation. The relationship between exercise and the menstrual cycle is complex, and many factors such as estrogen / progesterone ratio, workload, type of exercise, and individual characteristics affect this relationship. Hormone levels and ratios to each other can have a wide variety of effects on carbohydrate metabolism during exercise. Scientific research on this subject is still very new.
Most of us experience a desire to consume more carbohydrates in the high estrogen phase of the menstrual cycle. Avoiding this desire, stopping carbohydrate intake and thinking about directing it to fat burning does not give the results we think. In other words, cutting carbohydrates with the thought that the body will use more fat for energy can have the opposite effects and the body can especially keep excess weight. It is necessary to pay attention to the energy needs in the body due to hormonal changes and to meet this need in a measured way.
Compiled and translated by: Senem Tahmaz
Referanslar: Emine Saner. “the Menstrual Month-How to excercise effectively at every stage of your cycle”. (2021) Şuradan alındı: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/feb/02/the-menstrual-month-how-to-exercise-effectively-at-every-stage-of-your-cycle
Seda Uğraş. “Menstrual Cycle, Exercise and Stress Response”. (2018) Department of Physiology, İnönü University Institute of Health Sciences. Retrieved from: http://abakus.inonu.edu.tr/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11616/9034/10188497.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y