Endometriosis is a painful condition that occurs when tissue similar to uterine lining grows on the outside of the uterus. This tissue can affect different areas, like the ovaries, pelvis, and fallopian tubes.
Endometriosis can cause heavier menstrual cycles and bleeding in between periods. In addition, some women experience symptoms such as pain, constipation, low energy, and poor sleep.
Exercise may help improve symptoms. The impact of physical activity on endometriosis isn’t well researched, but anecdotally, some people with this condition have said they tend to feel better when they stay active.
Even though exercise might be the last thing on your mind, here’s how it can help.
Pain is a common symptom of endometriosis. It 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
Endometriosis has been linked with anxiety and depression. In the United States, women with endometriosis are about one to two times more likely to develop anxiety and depression.
This is likely due to the ongoing pain of the condition. It may also be related to the shifting hormones and increased levels of estrogen that occur with endometriosis.
However, the same feel-good endorphins that reduce pain can also act as natural mood boosters.
Endometriosis can affect sleep quality. This is often due to pain and anxiety, which makes it difficult to relax as well as fall and stay asleep. Lack of sleep can further increase inflammation and anxiousness, making you feel worse.
Exercise has long been associated with better sleep. It can decrease the time you take 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 pelvic floor dysfunction. This is when you have difficulty controlling your pelvic floor muscles. Tightness and tension in the pelvic floor can trigger pain in your pelvic area 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 intestinal contractions, which can make it easier to have bowel movements.
Some research associates fatigue with endometriosis. In a 2018 study of 560 women with endometriosis, fatigue occurred in just over
Fatigue was often associated with sleep problems, depression, and pain. Yet, staying active helps some women regain their energy. Moving the body increases blood flow, which equals 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 can include yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and strength training about 2 days per week.
In addition, you can add other exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, such as:
- Kegel exercises
- Happy Baby Pose
- heel slides
Aim to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.
Make sure you listen to your body, though. Even though exercise can help you find relief from endometriosis symptoms, overdoing it can worsen pain.
Pace yourself, take frequent breaks, and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Here are several small adjustments to help you add more activity into each day and maintain a fitness regimen:
- Instead of 30-minute workouts, get active in 10-minute intervals 3 times per day. For example, you might go for a walk in the morning, on your lunch break, and after dinner.
- Get up and walk for the last 5 to 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 equipment for your home.
- Schedule your workout sessions in advance to help you stick with them.
- Warm up for about 5 minutes before jumping into aerobic activity.
- Strengthen your muscles at least 2 days per week.
Endometriosis symptoms can be hard to manage and make it hard to stay active. Yet regular exercise can help improve pain, mood, sleep, and more.
It can take some trial and error to find the right workout plan for you. Start with a low impact workout, and then gradually increase the intensity and frequency as your body allows.