Exercise: Menstruation to Menopause


Because the physiology and development of females differs so greatly from men, there are a number of exercises that can assist with the major changes they will go through during their lives.The first major change in a woman’s life is the onset of menstruation (menarche) that generally occurs between 11 and 13 years of age. According to a New York Times article “women who exercise regularly, such as joggers, report that since taking up their activity on a regular basis, they have experienced less premenstrual tension, less menstrual discomfort, shorter periods and less bleeding.”

Exercise and Endorphines

It has been generally believed that exercise releases endorphins that help block pain. However, an article on BlissTree.com disputes these claims. In a study of 650 students at Birmingham University, UK, researchers found “no link between exercise and period pain.” The findings published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology note that with exercise, 72 percent reported little or no pain while 28 percent experienced moderate to severe pain leading the researchers to conclude that any relationship between exercise and menstrual pain is “merely anecdotal.”

However, studies at Colorado State University and Harvard Medical School found that vigorous physical activity actually impedes the beginning of menstruation. In the Harvard study, Dr. Rose E. Frisch found that ballet dancing inhibited menstruation by one year and “10 percent of ballet dancers who had reached the age of 18 ½ had not yet begun to menstruate.”

Despite the contradicting and confusing evidence so far, moderate exercise has been found to help ease the premenstrual tension and cramping in some women.

Pregnancy and exercise

The next major physiological change occurs in women who are pregnant. During this time, a woman’s breasts, uterus and fetus grow causing an increase in weight. During this delicate time, women must avoid extreme exercise regimes, weight-bearing exercises and even those that involve sudden movements.

Because exercise diverts blood flow from the abdominal area to exercising muscles, fetal hypoxemia can occur, which adversely affects fetal circulation of blood and oxygen to the umbilical cord and aorta.

According to the American Family Physician, published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, moderate exercise is generally fine for a healthy pregnant woman during the first and second trimester, but should be avoided during the third. However, even exercising in the second trimester has been associated with both “decreased maternal and fetal weight gain” and those who do so in the third trimester also risk premature labor.

One form of exercise that is less intensive and more suitable for pregnant women is yoga. Health & Yoga.com states that exercises to work the pelvis and concentrate on breathing can help women with natural childbirth.

Postnatal Exercise

After childbirth, a woman’s greatest challenge is strengthening her stomach muscles. Trainer and exercise physiologist Tom Holland of Darien, Connecticut says, “Muscle fibers in the abdominals run diagonally. Working them in the way they were designed to move gets you the best results in both strength and tone.”

Basically, that means doing exercises that twist the muscles, such as the Corkscrew in which you lie on your back with your hands under your behind – palms down. The legs are pointed upward. You tighten your stomach and lift your behind six to eight inches – then twist the legs and hips one way. Relax, get into position again and twist the other way.

Twisting the stomach muscles can also be accomplished using a Medicine Ball attached to a rope. With your back against the wall and feet apart, swing the ball to hit the wall one way and then the other. Another abdominal exercise involves lying on your back with one (or two) leg bended and held close to the stomach. The nose is then touched to the knee and the breath is held for several seconds.

Peri-menopause

The next major physiological change a woman experiences is peri-menopause at approximately 51 years of age, which can occur between 10 and 15 years before the actual onset of menopause. Along with this change, many women notice an increase in fat around their waistline. If a woman this age is basically healthy, the twisting exercises will help once again.

However, women with chronic illnesses might even find yoga difficult. In such cases, the family physician should be consulted. Perhaps something like low-impact swimming would be better to stretch the muscles and keep the body limber. Some women opt for exercise programs carried out in heated pools to further soothe their stiff joints.

Of course between these life-changing periods that a woman endures, regular and even high-impact exercises can help keep them in shape. During these times, anything goes from running and jogging right up to weight lifting depending upon a woman’s health and desired goals.

Resources:

Exercise Helps Women Starting Menopause
Regular Exercise can help you cope with effects of Menopause
Practicing Yoga during Pregnancy
Running for Weight Loss
9 Fitness Lies You’ve Been Told

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2 responses to “Exercise: Menstruation to Menopause

  1. Pingback: Water aerobics 101: Workouts for the swimming pool. | Bangari Content Gallery

  2. Pingback: Menstruation gallery | Iuvotest

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