Exercise and Endometriosis: Can it Help?

Quincy AdamEndometriosis Lifestyle, Exercise

When the pain and discomfort of endometriosis strike, what’s your go-to remedy? Pain meds? Heating pads? Exercise? Some women swear by getting up and moving through the pain. Others say it doesn’t help.

The truth is, very few studies have looked at the impact of exercise on endometriosis risk, and even fewer have examined its effects on symptoms of pain, heavy bleeding, bloating and constipation. 1

One study found that intense, regular exercise — 3 times a week or more, for 30 minutes or more at a time for two years — had a 76% reduction in the risk  of developing endometriosis.1

But what about if you already have the condition? Can exercise slow its progression? Or reduce your symptoms? Many doctors recommend exercise because it’s proven to lower the risk of chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. 2 Likewise, exercise improves symptoms once you have these conditions.

And while there’s no concrete proof that exercise benefits women with endometriosis, there is proof that exercise reduces inflammation – and inflammation is known to be one of the drivers of endometriosis. 3

Inflammation: the good and the bad

What exactly is inflammation? Simply put, inflammation is how the body heals an injury or attacks a foreign invader, such as viruses and bacteria.

With endometriosis, blood and uterine tissue grow outside the uterus where they shouldn’t. This triggers immune cells known as inflammatory cytokines to travel to the site, where they attempt to fight and heal the foreign cells. But when the injury doesn’t go away, the chemicals continue to wage battle and inadvertently damage the areas they were meant to heal. 4  This ultimately causes pain and discomfort.

Exercise, theoretically, could reduce this inflammation, and thus relieve symptoms.

“Regular physical exercise seems to have protective effects against diseases that involve inflammatory processes since it induces an increase in the systemic levels of cytokines with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and also acts by reducing estrogen levels.” 1

In plain language, this means exercise is likely to reduce inflammation caused endometriosis, which in turn could reduce pain and discomfort. Even if exercise doesn’t help with symptom control, it is beneficial to reducing your risk of other chronic diseases, so it will help you stay healthy in the long run.