Ask The Advocate: Exercise and Endometriosis

Last updated: June 2019

Most people know that exercise can improve both physical and mental health. But what if you're in pain, or dealing with a chronic illness? While there isn't much research out there about the effects of exercise for endometriosis, many community members share that physical activity helps them to manage pain, and support wellbeing.

To learn more about exercise and endometriosis, we asked our advocates, "Does exercise make your endometriosis symptoms better or worse?". Check-out their responses, and comment below to share your own experiences!

From Alene

"I find yoga to be incredibly helpful during my cycle and, actually, throughout the entire month. It helps me to manage stress, relieve physical tension in my body – especially my back, and I believe that it helps to keep my hormones balance. Outside of yoga, I do enjoy strength training and high intensity interval training (HIIT). Exercise is part of the glue that holds me together."

From Christina

"Yoga helps the symptoms to a certain extent, but heavy exercise makes everything worse. During my menstrual cycle, I can't do anything - I can barely walk, let a!one exercise, and even doing yoga makes everything worse. I have heard the advice to have sex during menstruation, which is supposed to alleviate cramps (at least when you have an orgasm), but I have always been in too much pain even to try it."

From Jessica

"Exercise can be helpful for me before and after menstruation. During menstruation, my symptoms are too severe, and rest seems to be the best medicine, but I can't stay in the same position too long. I try to rotate between resting and being on my feet if I can."

From Jessie

"I think my exercise regime helps. I started running because of the anxiety and low moods I suffered due to my endometriosis. I have never felt worse after a run. If anything, I feel so tired and relaxed, that it helps me sleep better. Yoga is also extremely helpful, especially the days before my period, as it helps me focus. Also, since I tend to spend several days in bed during my period, doing yoga when I feel better aligns everything. It gets rid of any pains I may have developed from being mostly horizontal."

From Keri

"Exercise doesn’t explicitly alleviate my pain symptoms, but it does help me feel better physically and emotionally. I definitely have a tough time at the gym the week before my period, especially the couple days before it starts. I have less energy, and the bloating makes my abdomen sensitive. That means running and HIIT routines are out. Sometimes when I weight train during my PMS week, my symptoms actually get worse because the pain my muscles experience coincides with my period pain. Because of this, I tend to strength train the first three weeks of the month."

From Kimberli

"Any exercise that is extremely intense makes my symptoms worse. It causes me a lot of pain. However, yoga, walking and some light cardio exercises most definitely help me. I do notice right before my menstrual cycle, exercise makes my pelvis and legs hurt- badly. I spend most of my time on the treadmill or walking the neighborhood. Those are my two favorite things to do for exercise. Yoga is my go to during my period, as some of the stretches help when I am cramping badly."

From Laura

"It really depends on the time of month, and if I am bleeding, what day it is (first or second or just spotting), and even the month itself, as some months are much worse than others. Overall, I think exercise can be a good thing. I had a period of time during my mid to late 20s where I went to the gym 4 days a week and did a solid hour of high impact exercise that caused me to work up a good sweat. I noticed my periods tended to be much less painful and heavy during that time span. (However, it should also be noted this was only a few years out from my lap.) But, nowadays, because other illnesses I have- including connective tissue disease- have contributed to a lot of degenerative damage in my spine and hips, I can no longer partake in very rigorous exercise without causing pain and possible (serious) injury. So, I can't achieve that exercise high or sweat out as much of the estrogen that I'd like to. Nonetheless, I do try to do some low-impact exercises throughout the month, and even while I am bleeding. This is mostly restricted to going on walks. It does help. But when I am bleeding super-heavy so that I can barely stand, sometimes it's impossible to do even that and impossible to execute."

From Lia

Physically, it can cause pain, but mentally, it can help me feel so much better in a world where I feel like crap. My biggest struggle with exercise before and during my menstrual cycle is finding the energy to make myself exercise when being in bed in the fetal position is where I would prefer to stay. On the bad days, I either let myself off the hook without being myself up or take an easy walk and enjoy fresh air opposed to forcing myself to the gym."

From Meredith

"Pilates and intense aerobic exercise generally doesn't work well for me. When my endo was really bad pre- and post- surgery, I took up yoga which improved my energy levels, mood and pain levels."

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