Sport for Endometriosis: 5 Benefits
The inclination to engage in physical activity is common among individuals with endometriosis. Nonetheless, uncertainties may arise. Could exercise potentially be detrimental for those diagnosed with it? Might physical activity exacerbate pain? Allow me to address your concerns. Generally, physical activity is advised for endometriosis. Today I will outline the advantages that consistent exercise brings and elucidate the components of a well-structured endometriosis exercise regimen.
1. Exercise Puts You in a Good Mood
Let’s be honest. Endometriosis can take a toll on our nerves. All too frequently, patients find themselves ensnared in a whirlpool of pessimistic thoughts, making it challenging to maintain a positive outlook and navigate the day with optimism. Thankfully, exercise possesses a well-documented knack for uplifting one’s mood. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to the elevation of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels induced by physical activity. These happiness-inducing neurotransmitters activate the reward system within the human body, offering the potential to enhance mood and alleviate stress [1,2]. To an extent, this impact is so profound that scientists regard exercise as a potent intervention against depression. Notably, a study demonstrated that individuals who engage in just 30 minutes of weekly jogging can reap an effect akin to that triggered by antidepressants .
Sport elevates mood: affecting mental state universally
While studies often concentrate on individuals who are predisposed to mental instability, such as those dealing with anxiety disorders or depression, a scientific investigation took a distinct approach. This study enlisted 119 adults who were not particularly active and exhibited no mental symptoms. To ensure comparable outcomes, a control group was also assembled. Within the experimental group, participants engaged in exercise four times a week, dedicating around 35 minutes to each session. Utilizing a bicycle ergometer or a treadmill, they worked up a sweat consistently over a three-month period. Subsequently, a month-long hiatus was prescribed. Astonishingly, the researchers discerned that the exercise group demonstrated a remarkable 35% reduction in the risk of developing depression in comparison to the control group. Remarkably, this positive impact endured even during the one-month pause .
2. Sport Relieves Pain
Engaging in physical activity is believed to trigger the production of anti-inflammatory messenger substances within the immune system. This proposition naturally raises the possibility of exercise acting as a pain-relieving agent. After all, it is established that messenger substances responsible for inflammation are closely linked to pain development. If exercise prompts the release of their counterparts, the anti-inflammatory messenger substances, it could potentially impede the progression of endometriosis pain. A captivating study delves into this concept, featuring 20 participants aged between 26 and 32. All of them carried a diagnosis of mild to moderate endometriosis, confirmed via laparoscopy. Over an 8-week span, these women engaged in a comprehensive exercise program. Under the guidance of a physiotherapist, they undertook sessions both within a clinical setting and at home.
The program encompassed a spectrum of activities, including breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, stretching, strength-building exercises, endurance training, and posture enhancement. The outcome? Researchers noted a dual benefit: not only did participants report a reduction in pain, but their posture also experienced improvement. Alongside the impact on anti-inflammatory messenger substances, the study also explores potential effects on the hormone system . It is worth noting that while certain forms of exercise can prompt a decrease in estrogen levels, as observed in extreme sports, a consistent regimen of pushing to one’s limits is not advisable.
Good to know!
Messenger substances play a pivotal role within the body by facilitating cell communication. This includes both hormones and neurotransmitters, which function as messenger substances .
3. Exercise Has a Decramping Effect
Endometriosis often ushers in pain, particularly during menstruation. Abdominal cramps ensue as the body’s intrinsic messenger substances prompt contractions of the uterine muscles. This mechanism ensures the expulsion of the now redundant uterine lining. The challenge arises when these contractions also diminish blood supply to the uterus, giving rise to the familiar menstrual discomfort. In instances involving adhesions, the agony can escalate, rendering everyday life during this phase of the cycle notably challenging. Engaging in light physical activity can encourage blood circulation, thereby alleviating cramps. Nonetheless, it is prudent to proceed with caution. Opt for gentle exercises to prevent unwarranted strain on the body. Yoga, in particular, emerges as a favorable choice .
4. Sport Helps to Relax
The rhythm of tension and relaxation should ideally harmonize, yet, this principle often gets overlooked in our daily lives. The demands of work, personal stressors, and notably the challenges posed by endometriosis often leave us devoid of a chance to truly catch our breath. It is tempting to assume that relaxation can be achieved solely through designated techniques, but intriguingly, studies reveal that the same can be gained through physical activity.
Consider the stress hormone cortisol as an example. It plays a vital role in mobilizing the body’s resources, priming it for action. When cortisol surges, the heart beats faster, inflammatory responses are subdued, and fat metabolism is activated, rendering you more efficient. In ancient times, cortisol readied our ancestors for combat or rapid flight – a life-saving mechanism. While we continue to require cortisol, maintaining a regular reduction of its levels is equally imperative. Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to conditions like heart disease, hypertension, and sleep disturbances. Enter exercise: a reliable means to bring down stress hormones and foster relaxation. Striking a balance between physical activity and relaxation techniques proves optimal.
Good to know!
A study spotlighted the efficacy of twelve weeks of endurance sports in lowering cortisol levels and ameliorating subjective perceptions of stress .
5. Physical Activity Sets a New Focus
As you have already experienced, sport has the remarkable ability to uplift your mood. This transformation is attributed to the remixing of the body’s hormone cocktail. Yet, beyond the realm of biochemistry, exercise also fosters a shift in your outlook on life. Engaging in physical activity empowers you to set goals and momentarily divert your focus from the pain. Many women find themselves grappling with resentment towards their bodies – resentment stemming from persistent symptoms. Studies have revealed that such struggles can adversely affect body image and self-confidence [9,10]. Through sports, you encounter a new facet of your body, one that bolsters your self-assurance in yourself and your capabilities.
Exploring Deeper: Exercise and Endometriosis Adhesions
An intriguing study proposes exercise holds potential beyond relaxation and pain alleviation for endometriosis. In an animal experiment, rats afflicted with endometriosis lesions engaged in light, moderate, or intense swimming exercises. The results were telling: the size of endometriosis lesions diminished. This effect was more pronounced among rats that engaged in moderate (3 times per week) or intense (5 times per week) swimming . Although these findings cannot be directly applied to humans, they offer a valuable hint about the benefits of exercise in managing endometriosis.
Sports Selection: Tailoring to Your Needs
The beauty of sports lies in diversity—anything that brings you joy and wellness is permissible. Some women thrive in activities like jogging or cycling, while others find solace in exercises emphasizing relaxation, such as yoga. There are, however, a few caveats. If your pain is severe, exercising with caution is advised. Pushing through pain serves no purpose. Instead, use sports to experience relaxation, heightened self-assurance, and improved body awareness during periods of minimal or no pain. When uncertain about the ideal exercise regimen given your distinct endometriosis symptoms, consult your gynecologist. Collaborating with a fitness professional, you can devise a training plan that gently introduces exercise into your routine. This gradual approach allows you to ease into the realm of beneficial physical activity.
If you have curtailed your physical activity due to pain, a gradual approach is key. Break down your exercise into shorter intervals. For instance, substitute 60 minutes of Zumba with 10-minute sessions, and assess their impact. Often, these shorter intervals are more tolerable and less likely to trigger pain. This approach is referred to as activity pacing.
A Tailored Endometriosis Sports Plan
The extent of exercise you can and wish to integrate into your life naturally varies. How you feel and the intensity of your pain influence the design of your training plan. Below, I will illustrate an example of a daily exercise routine:
- Swimming: 30 minutes, once a week
- Yoga: 20 minutes, once a week
- Walking: 45 minutes, twice a week
- Meditation: 10 minutes, daily
Reflect on your preferences and past enjoyments in sports, and consider how much you can comfortably incorporate into your daily routine. Begin gently, and gradually amplify your efforts.
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