How Exercise Changes the Menstrual Cycle

Livestrong.com

January 2011

Overview

Having a regular menstrual cycle is a sign that your body is working normally. There are a lot of hormones at work during menstruation, and your cycle can be affected by many things, including exercise. Some types of exercise can change the menstrual cycle so it is infrequent or absent, which is called amenorrhea. Many negative health conditions may result from exercising too vigorously. Exercise can also change your cycle in a positive way if you suffer from intense symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

About Menstruation

During the first half of your cycle, estrogen hormone levels rise. Estrogen helps your body build strong bones and plays a role in keeping them strong as you age. Estrogen is also important to fertility as it makes the lining of the uterus grow, thicken and become ready to nourish an embryo if pregnancy occurs. Halfway through a 28-day cycle, an egg leaves the ovary and travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. During the second half of the cycle, progesterone is the dominant hormone and is also important to female health. If exercise is too vigorous and you don’t have a menstrual cycle, you won’t receive the benefits of these hormones.

Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea refers to an absence of menstruation, and one of the causes is vigorous exercise. According to a study published by UniSci and conducted by Anne Hoche, D.O., assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and orthopedic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, females who exercise so vigorously they have amenorrhea can develop osteoporosis and cardiovascular problems. If exercise causes your menstrual cycle to completely stop, there is not enough estrogen in your system for strong bones and a healthy heart. Hoch stresses that athletics and exercise are beneficial for women in many cases, but amenorrhea is an abnormal condition that needs to be given proper attention by coaches and doctors.

Premenstrual Syndrome

Exercise can change your menstrual cycle in positive ways. Premenstrual syndrome can feel miserable and includes emotional symptoms, like depression and irritability, and physical symptoms, like bloating, headache and fatigue. Aerobic exercise may be able to improve your symptoms and change your cycle for the better, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Aerobic exercises include brisk walking, running, cycling and swimming. Exercise may reduce symptoms of fatigue and depression if done regularly, at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.