Exercise and what is being referred to as “cycle syncing” has become increasingly popular and it is something women have asked me about before. Women want to know what is the best exercise to do based on the phases of their menstrual cycle or for their specific conditions like pain or PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome). As a Health Coach & educator I like to present evidence-based research.
Exercise & “Cycle Syncing”
Researchers from the School of Sport and Leisure in Portugal reviewed the existing knowledge (published research) on this topic to help optimize exercise prescription and nutritional intake according to the naturally occurring phases of the menstrual cycle. They published a review in 2021 in the academic journal ‘Nutrients.’ Based on all the research that has been done so far on this subject, it was concluded that the impact of hormones on exercise performance was variable and that there were very minor effects during the different stages. They found that there needs to be an “individualized treatment” because the relationship between exercise and the menstrual cycle phases varied greatly from woman to woman. The roles of female hormones are still being studied in how they affect exercise performance and how exercise affects the hormones in particular phases.
So all this to say is that there is not enough research on this topic yet to back up specific types of exercise to specific phases of the female cycle. The effects so far show to be minor and the best approach to exercise and the female cycle is one that is personalized to you.
A personalized approach to exercise and your cycle might look like this – doing activities you enjoy (dancing, walking, cycling, etc.), taking it easy during menstruation when you may feel more tired, and doing some gentle activities like stretching or taking a day or two of rest, doing less intense exercises when under stress or not sleeping enough, simply rotating between aerobic and resistance training or doing a higher intensity workout on days you feel more energized.
Exercise for pain & PMS
When it comes to pain and PMS research does support the effectiveness of aerobics and yoga movements in significantly reducing pain and PMS according to a study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion. Yoga was found to be more significant in reducing PMS symptoms compared to aerobics. Both however showed to be equal in reducing pain. Participants of the study did either yoga movements or aerobics for 40 min, 3 times a week for 1 month. So consistency and continuation of these activities over a period of time is key.
Another 8 week study in which 30 minutes of aerobic exercises were performed for 20 minutes, 3 times a week, also concluded that aerobic exercise could be used to treat PMS and reduce physical symptoms like headaches, nausea and vomiting, bloating, and hot flashes.
So you may want to consider adding some routine aerobic exercise to your week all month long to support menstrual cycle and hormonal health. It’s not just for women experiencing cycle issues – all women can benefit from regular physical activity.
If you do experience symptoms of pain and PMS and they do not improve with regular exercise or other lifestyle changes reach out for help. Tracking your cycle with a Fertility Awareness Method like FEMM and seeking Medical Management can help address and treat the root cause.
Need help finding or keeping your personalized exercise plan? Or maybe you want support in creating some exercise habits that become part of the healthy lifestyle you are looking for. Send me a message and let me know how I can help!