Menstrual cycle and exercise
The hormonal changes that occur in girls affect every individual’s training- to a greater or lesser extent. Some are hardly affected whilst others are affected a great deal.
In most cases, both coordination and mental performance deteriorate one to two days prior to each period, and for the first day of the period. During these days it is appropriate to rest or perform lighter exercise. In particular, training that involves high demands on coordination and precision should be avoided.
- In most cases, both coordination and mental performance deteriorate one to two days prior to each period, and for the first day of the period. During these days it is appropriate to rest or perform lighter exercise. In particular, training that involves high demands on coordination and precision should be avoided.
- In the time between the start of a period and ovulation, i.e. the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, high oestrogen levels are present in the body and this means the body responds very well to exercise. During the time between the end of the period and the start of ovulation it is suitable to perform explosive training and hard training for both conditioning and strength, as this provides a window of opportunity for good results in muscular strength, endurance and conditioning training.
- During ovulation, testosterone levels are at their highest, making this a very suitable time for strength training.
- Between ovulation, and before the next period begins, longer duration training, i.e. aerobic/endurance training is the most appropriate.
In general, it is important that girls (and boys!) perform a lot of coordination and strength training in order to reduce the risk of injury. Children and young athletes generally have a higher risk of overload injuries than adults, and this applies particularly to girls who experience pre-menstrual problems or girls who know that they are sensitive one or two days before, and during the first day of, their periods. Therefore, to avoid injury, it is important to plan recovery training sessions during this time and normal training at other times.
The menopause occurs on average at the age of 51, but it can occur any time between 45 and 57 years of age. A period of 3-4 years of irregular bleeding often precedes the menopause.
Production of the hormone oestrogen is reduced during and after the menopause. Oestrogen has several important functions in the body, such as protecting against the breakdown of bone mass and against the storage of fat in the walls of blood vessels. The reduced levels of oestrogen associated with the menopause mean that bone tissue becomes more fragile, blood fat levels are negatively affected and the body’s fat distribution changes, with more fat being stored around the abdomen. The most characteristic symptoms associated with the menopause are hot flushes and sweating, which affect about 75% of all women. Women with severe sweating and hot flushes often have disturbed sleep, which in turn can negatively affect their well-being and work capacity. Symptoms of hot flushes can be triggered by spicy foods, wine, coffee or stress. Reduced oestrogen levels also affect the mucous membranes of the abdomen, including the bladder and urethra, which become dry and brittle.
Did you know that strength training can help with menopausal problems?
The most common form of urinary incontinence is stress incontinence, which mainly affects women. The pelvic floor’s supporting structures such as the muscles and connective tissue become weaker through aging. Pregnancy, childbirth, oestrogen deficiency and genetics also contribute to the risk of developing incontinence. Stress incontinence can manifest when jumping, lifting, coughing or laughing. Pelvic floor exercises are the primary treatment for stress incontinence.
Pelvic floor training involves both strength training with maximum contractions and endurance training with submaximal contractions.
To find your pelvic floor muscles, follow these steps:
- Lie on your back or side with bent legs, sit on a chair and lean forward, or kneel with your forearms on the ground.
- Breathe normally throughout the exercise.
- Tighten the muscle around the rectum by squeezing as if you were trying to prevent passing wind. Hold the squeeze.
- Spread the squeeze forward and upwards around the vagina and urethra or towards the scrotum and penis. You should feel a small lift upwards and inwards towards the abdomen.
- Hold this squeeze gently for three seconds.
- Release and rest for at least three seconds.
- Notice the difference between tense and relaxed muscles.
Repeat the exercise ten times and the whole exercise three times a day.
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Certified physiotherapist. Medical coordinator Swedish Athletics. PhD, Post doctor, with a primary research focus on health and performance in athletics.
Sverker N – Sports Medicine Physician, PhD. Chair of The Medical Committee Swedish Athletics.