How it helps, plus tips for moving

Endometriosis is a painful condition that occurs when tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. This tissue can affect different areas, such as the ovaries, pelvis, and fallopian tubes.

Endometriosis can cause heavier menstrual cycles and bleeding between periods. Additionally, some women experience symptoms such as pain, constipation, lack of energy, and poor sleep.

Exercise can help improve symptoms. The impact of physical activity on endometriosis is not well studied, but anecdotally, some people with the condition have reported that they tend to feel better when they stay active.

While exercise might be the last thing on your mind, here’s how it can help.

Pain is a common symptom of endometriosis. This can include pelvic pain, cramping, and back pain. The pain can range from mild to severe and may worsen during menstrual cycles.

Staying active can release endorphins or feel-good hormones. These act as a natural pain reliever. In fact, a study 2017 found that participating in an 8-week exercise program may help reduce the intensity of pelvic pain associated with endometriosis.

Endometriosis has been linked to anxiety and depression. In the United States, women with endometriosis are approximately once or twice more likely to develop anxiety and depression.

This is likely due to the ongoing pain of the disease. It may also be related to the shift in hormones and increased estrogen levels that occur with endometriosis.

However, the same feel-good endorphins that reduce pain can also act as natural mood enhancers.

Endometriosis can affect the quality of sleep. This is often due to pain and anxiety, which makes it difficult to relax as well as to fall asleep and stay asleep. Lack of sleep can further increase inflammation and anxiety, which makes you feel worse.

Exercise has long been associated with better sleep. It can reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and help you stay asleep longer. And since exercise improves mood and reduces pain, you’ll likely enjoy more restful sleep.

Endometriosis is linked to dysfunction of the pelvic floor. This is when you have trouble controlling your pelvic floor muscles. Tightness and tension in the pelvic floor can trigger pain in the pelvic region and lower back.

Staying active can improve strength and posture. It also increases mobility and promotes muscle relaxation, which can improve pain in the pelvic region.

Endometriosis and irritable bowel syndrome can sometimes occur together. In this case, you may experience symptoms like constipation and bloating.

Exercise can help manage these gastrointestinal symptoms. Physical activity stimulates bowel contractions, which can make bowel movements easier.

Some research associates fatigue with endometriosis. In a 2018 study of 560 women with endometriosis, fatigue occurred in just over 50 percent of them.

Fatigue was often associated with sleep problems, depression and pain. Still, staying active helps some women regain their energy. Moving the body increases blood flow, which equates to more energy.

The best exercises for endometriosis include low to moderate impact workouts. The recommended intensity of workouts varies from person to person, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Low to moderate impact workouts include swimming, brisk walking, and cycling.

You should also incorporate stretching, relaxation, and strengthening exercises into your program. This may include yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and strength training about 2 days a week.

Additionally, you can add other exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, such as:

  • Kegel exercises
  • Happy baby pose
  • heel slips

Aim to exercise for 30-60 minutes most days of the week.

Be sure to listen to your body though. Although exercise can help relieve the symptoms of endometriosis, overdoing it can make the pain worse.

Go at your own pace, take frequent breaks and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.

Here are several small tweaks to help you add more activity each day and maintain a fitness routine:

  • Instead of 30-minute workouts, get active at 10-minute intervals 3 times a day. For example, you could take a walk in the morning, during your lunch break, and after dinner.
  • Get up and walk for the last 5-10 minutes of every hour, if possible.
  • Walk around while talking on the phone.
  • Take periodic dance breaks throughout the day.
  • Choose activities and workouts that you enjoy. For example, play sports, walk your dog, work in your garden or go swimming.
  • Buy workout gear for your home.
  • Plan your workouts in advance to help you stick to them.
  • Warm up for about 5 minutes before engaging in aerobic activity.
  • Strengthen your muscles at least 2 days a week.

Symptoms of endometriosis can be difficult to manage and make it hard to stay active. Still, regular exercise can help improve pain, mood, sleep, and more.

It may take some trial and error to find the right workout plan for you. Start with a low impact workout, then gradually increase the intensity and frequency to suit your body.

About Shirley A. Tamayo

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