Yes, you should exercise, but then you’ve always heard that, still doesn’t make it easier to do. If you’re usually sedentary, exercise into your schedule can sound like an overwhelming life change. Even if you’re reasonably active, stepping up your program can be hard, often because of time constraints perceived barriers. But the myriad health benefits of exercise, as its potential to relieve PMS symptoms, are worth the investment.
Moderate exercise can have a dramatic effect on your overall well-being. Exercise helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces your risk of heart disease, helps prevent osteoporosis, helps protect you from certain cancers, improves your strength and mobility, and helps you lose and maintain weight. Research shows that exercise can also reduce your PMS symptoms.
Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, increases the release beta-endorphin, a neurotransmitter that boosts the immune system, kills cancer cells, and acts as an analgesic to numb or dull pain. One 1991 study showed that aerobic exercise caused beta-endorphin levels to rise fivefold over normal levels. This rise seems to be unrelated to the amount of athletic training a person has (although athletes seem to metabolize beta-endorphins more efficiently), while the duration and intensity of the exercise does have an effect on how much beta-endorphin levels rise.
Exercise also impacts hormone levels. One study showed that forty-minute sessions of resistance or endurance exercise significantly increased blood levels of estrogen, testosterone, and growth hormones in women who exercised compared with women who did not. Exercise counteracts the estrogen and endorphin withdrawal that happens in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle and depresses progesterone levels. In other words, it appears to control the hormonal imbalance associated with PMS.
The link between exercise and PMS has not been effectively studied, but despite this, experts commonly recommend exercise as treatment for women with PMS and PMDD. Researchers do know that women who are active seem to have fewer PMS symptoms. For example, female athletes are less likely to have PMS. Research has also shown that exercise has a beneficial effect on a number of specific PMS symptoms such as migraine and depression. Yet even with all health benefits, many people resist exercise or have trouble sustaining an exercise program. If you suffer from PMS, it’s important to try counter these obstacles. Since exercise can ease depression, anxiety, and stress, and make you more physically fit, isn’t it worth trying?
Exercise and Stress
Exercise is known to reduce stress, a major risk factor for PMS. Women who are stressed and also have strong PMS appear to use exercise as a coping mechanism for their symptoms. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Women's Health assessed 114 women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-three according to their PMS symptoms, quality of life, and exercise. Results showed that women with high PMS had significantly more stress and a poorer quality of life than women with low PMS. The relationship with exercise was more complicated. Women who said they exercised sometimes had more stress than women who exercised often or never. The researchers speculated that women with the worst PMS symptoms respond by exercising, while women who exercise often or never exercise don't associate exercise with their symptoms.
A 1999 telephone survey of 874 women in Virginia, published the
PMS affects more than your body. It hurts your quality of life your ability to work. Researchers at UCLA’s Cedars-Sinai Health found that women with PMS had reduced work productivity, experienced interference with hobbies, and missed a greater of days of work for health reasons.
Exercise and Migraines
Since it increases endorphin levels, which have an analgesic effect, aerobic exercise reduces migraines. People with a history of migraines who participated in an aerobic exercise program experienced fewer migraines. Their migraines were also shorter and less intense, according to one study. Another study in which participants exercised three times a week for six weeks for forty minutes (a ten-minute warm-up, twenty minutes of exercise, followed by a ten-minute cooldown) showed that after four weeks, the participants' endorphin levels increased and their migraines were significantly reduced.
Exercise and Depression
More than one hundred studies have been conducted on exercise and depression, and the results consistently show that exercise boosts mood, increases energy level, and has a calming effect.
Exercise appears to be at least as effective as more traditional therapies for depression. A 1990 study by T. C. North and colleagues, published in
Exercise and Anxiety
There is very strong evidence that exercise also reduces anxiety, another common PMS symptom. A 1991 study published in the journal
Several reviews of studies conducted between 1960 and 1995 on anxiety and exercise showed that both ongoing exercise programs and exercise performed for relatively short periods have an antianxi-ety effect. It didn’t matter if the study subjects were anxious types, prone to anxiety on a regular basis, or if they were only anxious very specific situations—they all benefited.
You'll achieve greater benefits depending on the type of exercise you do, how long you do it, and how anxious or fit you are. Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming, or cycling is better at reducing anxiety than non-aerobic exercise (e.g., strength-flexibility training). In addition, if your exercise training program is at least ten weeks long (and preferably longer than fifteen weeks), and if you are either highly anxious (such as panic disorder patients) or have a lower level of fitness, you'll see a greater anti-anxiety effect from exercise.
Other Benefits of Exercise
Exercise helps you live longer. One study conducted by Institute for Aerobic Research in Dallas and published
Exercise also helps cut your risk for dementia. A 2006 the
PMS costs! Researchers at UCLA’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center calculate that PMS costs $4,392 per year in direct medical costs, missed workdays, and lost productivity. In the 2005 study, researchers collected data 374 women aged eighteen to forty-five. Administrative health claims data showed that PMS cost $59 in direct costs each year and $4,333 indirect costs, such as missed workdays and lost productivity.