Exercise

There is limited information currently available on the relationship between endometriosis and exercise, however, some individuals report that exercise helps reduce symptoms of endometriosis, such as chronic pelvic pain. Exercising in general also provides other health benefits that could impact a woman’s endometriosis, as well as improve her overall health, including reducing the risk of developing comorbid conditions such as diabetes and some cardiovascular conditions, among others.1 Exercising can take on many forms, from rigorous to mild. Finding the most appropriate exercise routine for you is a personal journey, and can be very different from those around you. Although it may be difficult to get motivated to exercise when dealing with endometriosis-related symptoms and pain, there are many health benefits that can accompany even light activity.

Current guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that adults perform at least two and a half hours per week of moderate physical activity, or an hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. Examples of moderate intensity exercises include brisk walking, gardening, and bicycling less than 10 miles per hour. Examples of vigorous intensity exercise include jumping rope, jogging, running, swimming laps, or uphill hiking. There are also a variety of other exercise types that can be tailored to all needs and abilities. These include practices like yoga, dancing, water aerobics, and more.2,3

How exercise might help relieve endometriosis symptoms

Exercise affects our body in a variety of ways when we’re performing it, and even after we’re done. Exercise improves circulation, increases energy levels, decreases stress, and causes the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that make us feel “good” and reduce pain. Also, regular exercise reduces levels of estrogen in the body, a hormone connected to the production, thickening, and breakdown of endometriosis lesions. All of these characteristics of exercise may contribute to its ability to potentially reduce endometriosis-related symptoms.1,4,5

Small studies have suggested that regular exercise may improve endometriosis on a cellular level as well as improve its symptoms.5-8 However, these studies are few in number, and several are based only on non-human (animal) models. Much more research is needed to determine the relationship between exercise and endometriosis risk and symptom alleviation. Regardless of the nature of this relationship, exercise does provide many overall health and wellness benefits, and can improve mental and physical health.

Things to note

Although finding what exercises are right for you is a personal journey, it is important to check in with your healthcare provider regularly on your exercise plans and goals. Not all exercise types and routines are for everyone, and there are some exercises or durations of exercise that may not be safe for you to perform, especially if you have other underlying health conditions. Your provider will be able to give you a basic overview of what kinds of activities and routines you are safe to try, and instruct you to build at your own pace. Additionally, enlisting the help of a fitness professional, if possible, may be a good idea to get you on the right track. If this is not feasible for you, there are also many free fitness videos online that can be utilized anywhere.

Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: June 2018
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