Both exercise and fitness have proven health benefits for females of all ages, but how does it affect your menstruation cycle? As is the case with most things, too much or too little exercise can be harmful to your health, affecting menstruation either way. For optimal health, it is important that women of all lifestyles, whether it be active or sedentary, understand the effects that fitness has on the menstrual cycle.
Too Little Fitness
Women who lead a sedentary lifestyle, with little to no fitness included in their daily routine, will likely experience long, painful and often, irregular, menstruation cycles. In addition, women that are classified as overweight or obese are likely to suffer from irregular menstrual cycles.
Studies have shown that menstruating women who exercise moderately on a regular basis tend to have shorter and less extreme menstrual cycles, regularly. The key word here is regular. Regular exercise leads to regular menstruation. Through stretching exercises, resistance training and cardiovascular activities, cramping can be alleviated during the menstrual cycle. Menstruating women can also benefit from fitness classes, such as yoga, Pilates, water aerobics or dancing.
Too Much Fitness
Women of menstruating age that take part in bodybuilding or extreme fitness will likely experience amenorrhea, or a temporary cessation of menstruation. The female body is meant to menstruate and until pregnancy or menopause takes place; a woman should not experience periods of amenorrhea. Because menstruation is a time in which the uterine lining is shed and replaced in the event conception were to occur, it is important that women experience a time of menstruation every month.
Research has shown that women experience a complete absence of menstruation when body fat levels fall below 20%. In addition, that same research shows that women with 20-25% of body fat are likely to experience irregular menstruation.
Finding a Healthy Balance
Realizing that the female body is designed to have a monthly menstrual period is important for a woman’s health. Exercise is healthy and provides abundant benefits, including preventing bone loss, maintaining a healthy weight and strengthening of the heart muscle. However, exercise is healthiest when performed on a moderate level. Working out in the gym for 6 hours a day or participating in extreme interval training for an extended period of time is not healthy. Aim to get an or two of physical activity each day for physical health, including menstrual health. In terms of body fat, a woman is considered to be healthy in the 25-30% range.
Health Risks Associated with Amenorrhea
When menstruation is absent, a woman is compromising her health in more ways than one. When a female experiences amenorrhea for a prolonged period of time, bone density is likely to suffer. Long term cessation of the menstrual cycle is likely to cause osteoporosis and low bone density, increasing the risk of broken bones and fractures. In addition, women that do not menstruate also do not ovulate. Therefore, fertility is compromised.