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Find Out How Exercise Can Help PMS

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Regular exercise is always good for your health and this is also true for your PMS. Even though PMS discourages exercise, studies show that the right kind of exercise can reduce the discomfort you feel during this period. So, rather than stay in bed and hope for the best, you should take to the gym, do low impact exercise and adopt yoga. This article explains the link between exercise and PMS, how exercise helps and the right kinds of exercise to help get rid of your PMS blues.

Effect of PMS on Physical Performance

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects most premenopausal women but in different degrees. However, one universal complaint among women with PMS is the impact of the condition on their ability to perform daily tasks.

Both the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS can significantly lower your physical performance.

Depression, irritability and mood swings can also make it difficult to get up in the morning and look forward to the day. In addition, cramps, aches, and pains will make you think twice before performing any task.

It seems then that the soul-sucking, energy-sapping blues that is PMS should keep women suffering from this condition down at least until it blows over.

The advice that women should stay in bed with a glass of milk through the PMS storm may sound right. However, these moments of discouragement and fatigue are exactly when you should get moving and exercise away your PMS symptoms.

Studies confirm that there are barriers to exercising during PMS. Such barriers include bloating, cramps, embarrassment, and mood changes.

In addition, there is good evidence that physical inactivity while experiencing PMS may be encouraged by certain changes that occur in the body during the menstrual cycle. For example, core body temperature actually rises (by 0.4 degrees Celsius) during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.

This increase in temperature persists during exercise and is a sign of impaired thermoregulation. It results in higher core temperatures following exercise.

The rapid rise in body temperature means that while exercising, women with PMS will sweat faster and more profusely than those without the condition. These changes can make regular exercise regimens quite unattractive to such women.

Other PMS-related changes that can affect readiness to perform physical tasks include increased heart rate and dilation of blood vessels in the skin during the luteal phase.

How Exercise Helps PMS

Not all the changes that occur during PMS discourage physical performance. For example, the release of ovarian hormones during PMS can actually improve endurance and stimulate metabolism.

Progesterone, for example, has been shown to increase respiration during the luteal phase and also increase oxygen intake.

Estrogen promotes the storage of glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Therefore, the store of glycogen you have can easily be converted to energy during the luteal phase. This means increased endurance to cope with exercise during your PMS.

The first benefit of exercising during PMS is that it takes your mind off your symptoms.

In addition, contrary to what you think, exercising will not increase your fatigue. You will indeed get tired after a workout but the exercise tasks your muscles and will help you sleep better.

Furthermore, exercise increases blood circulation. Increased blood flow is key to coping with stress and boosting your immune function.

Besides blood circulation, exercise also speeds up fluid movement in the lymphatic system. Therefore, increased lymph flow will prevent the retention of fluid in the body and reduce bloating.

Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers and they are partly responsible for the increased awareness and vitality commonly referred to as runners’ high.

Endorphins can reduce the pains and aches associated with PMS and they can also relieve stress.

Together with increased metabolism, thyroid functioning, and neurotransmitter release, endorphins can also improve your mood and help with PMS-related depression, anxiety, and irritability.

Studies on Exercise and PMS

Impact of PMS on Physical Performance

How much does PMS impact daily living and quality of life? How well do women know about this impact?

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology evaluated the impact of PMS on the daily lives of Korean women. For the study, the researchers recruited 1,000 Korean premenopausal women.

For the study, the researchers measured and rated the severity and regularity of PMS as well as changes in the performance of daily activities.

They found out that most (91.5%) of the Korean women polled had no clear understanding of PMS or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a worse form of PMS). In addition, the researchers discovered that the duration of PMS symptoms was also directly correlated to severity.

According to the results of the study, these women reported more physical symptoms than mental symptoms of PMS. Of the 23 different symptoms identified, the most prevalent ones were irritability, abdominal pain (cramps) as well as back pain, muscle pain, and joint pain.

The researchers, therefore, concluded that PMS has a significant impact on the daily lives of Korean women even though awareness of this fact was low among the population.

A 2011 study published in the journal, Menopause International, also made a similar investigation but polled data from women in multiple countries.

To make it a global study, the researchers recruited approximately 400 premenopausal women from each of the following countries: Germany, Spain, the UK, France, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Pakistan. In addition, 500 women were recruited from Australia and 1,000 women were recruited from Japan and Korea.

The results of the global study showed that 4 out of 5 of the most prevalent PMS symptoms were physical.

These symptoms include cramps, abdominal bloating, breast pain and joint/back/muscle pains. The only common emotion-type PMS symptom was irritability.

The researchers also found that the severity of these PMS symptoms was directly proportional to the duration of PMS. In addition, they found that these symptoms negatively affected the activities of daily living (ADL) and the impact was similar irrespective of country and age.

However, they found that this impact of PMS was lessened by factors such as exercise and education.

These studies not only demonstrate that PMS can reduce activity level and limit physical performance, but they also confirm that it is important for women to know how PMS affects their lives and that regular exercise helps with PMS symptoms.

Stress, PMS and Exercise

A 2004 study published in the journal, Women and Health, investigated the link between stress and physical activity in women with PMS.

There were 114 women aged 18 – 33 years involved in this study. The researchers divided them into 2 groups according to the severity of their PMS symptoms. Then the 2 groups were compared on exercise, stress, and quality of life.

The results showed that women with high PMS symptoms experienced more stress and lower quality of life than women with low PMS symptoms.

The results also revealed that women with high PMS symptoms, who also experienced the most stress, belonged in the group that exercised infrequently. In contrast, women who exercised often or not at all had lower stress levels.

This result may look strange at first sight but it actually showed that the women who suffered the most stress and the most severe PMS symptoms were more likely to turn to exercise for relief.

However, those who did not stick to a regular exercise regimen got no relief from exercising.

Aerobic Exercise for PMS

Do aerobic exercises help PMS? A 1995 paper published in the journal, Doctoral Dissertations, suggested so.

The author of the paper detailed the effects of a 3-month aerobic exercise program on the severity and duration of PMS.

The researcher selected 45 sedentary but healthy premenopausal women from a pool of 216 volunteers. After undergoing a graded exercise test to determine their aerobic capacities, the women were divided into 4 groups.

Then over a period of 3 consecutive menstrual cycles, the researcher placed

  • 9 of the women with PMS on a low-intensity aerobic training program taking up 45 minutes per session and 3 times per week
  • 10 women with PMS on a moderate-intensity aerobic training program of the same duration
  • 11 women with PMS and 15 women without PMS on no exercise program for the same duration

The results of the study showed that the women who undertook low and moderate aerobic exercises reported a significant reduction in their PMS symptoms compared to the women with PMS who did not exercise at all.

In addition, the results showed that low and moderate aerobic exercises produced similar benefits for women with PMS.

Therefore, the researcher concluded that aerobic exercises can help provide relief for PMS symptoms and that the relief is independent of the intensity of the exercise.

This study is important not only because it proves that aerobic exercises can help women with PMS but also because it shows that low-intensity aerobic exercise is all that is required. This is good news for women who are afraid of or who cannot undertake high impact exercise.

Low-intensity aerobic exercise should also appeal to women with PMS given the reluctance they have for physical activities.

Aerobic Exercises vs. Strength Training for PMS

A 1993 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research compared the benefits of aerobic exercises and strength training at relieving PMS symptoms.

The researchers measured baseline PMS symptoms in 23 healthy premenopausal women with PMS. These women were randomly assigned to aerobic exercises or strength training for 3 months.

As expected the women who undertook aerobic exercises improved their aerobic capacities while those who took up strength training did not.

The results also showed that both types of exercises helped with PMS symptoms but the greater benefits were derived from aerobic exercise.

The researchers, therefore, recommended aerobic exercises for treating PMS symptoms especially depression.

Conditioning Exercise and PMS

In a 1986 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, a group of researchers investigated the benefits of conditioning exercises for women with PMS.

For the study, the researchers placed 8 women with PMS on a running exercise training program for 3 months. During that period, 6 women with PMS who did not exercise were kept as controls. Both groups regularly reported their PMS symptoms.

The results of the study showed that while there was no improvement in PMS symptoms in the control group, those women who exercised experienced reduced PMS symptoms especially breast pain and bloating.

The researchers, therefore, concluded that moderate exercise training can significantly reduce PMS symptoms.

Exercises for PMS

PMS does not actually lower your capacity for exercise even though it can make you reluctant to do your workouts.

To ensure that you will stick with your workout sessions, it is recommended that you choose an exercise that you enjoy doing. It is best to get an exercise partner because this will encourage you to establish and keep up your workout routine.

The National Women’s Health Information Center recommends 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week for women with PMS.

This target is easily achieved by undertaking 25 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times per week or 15 minutes of exercise for 5 days in a week.

Aerobic exercises help jumpstart your metabolism and releases energy to power your day as well as endorphins to blunt your pains. These exercises also reduce your sugar cravings and can help boost your mood.

Walking is the most popular aerobic exercise but there are also other effective aerobic exercises that can help. These include jogging, running, swimming, bike riding sports and even dancing.

Besides aerobic exercises, anaerobic exercises also have their benefits in the management of PMS.

Resistance or weight-bearing exercises help strengthen core muscles and the bones. They are especially effective for providing relief from cramps. However, if you are going to lift weights during this period, do not overexert yourself.

Other low impact exercises that can help with cramps, back pain, and aches include stretching. You can take up yoga to get the best from stretching and breathing exercises.





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