Irregular periods can be caused by many different factors, such as stress, being underweight or obese, or a drastic change in diet. However, many women are not aware that exercise and irregular periods are also linked.
Women who exercise a lot may experience irregular periods. This is also common in athletes with extremely low body fat.
What Are Irregular Periods?
Typically, the menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but a normal cycle can vary from 21 - 35 days. However, due to outside factors like stress or exercise, hormonal balance can be affected, and in turn, disrupt the regularity of a woman's cycle. Some women may only have a period once every two months, and others may experience a year with only one period.
How Does Exercise Cause Irregular Periods?
Exercise and irregular periods are linked because the menstrual cycle is dependent upon body fat and hormonal balance. Irregular periods can happen when women lose a lot of weight or exercise too much, resulting in a shift in hormonal balance. Both estrogen and progesterone regulate the menstrual cycle. Imbalances in these hormones can make women stop menstruating or experience irregular periods.
How Can I Prevent Irregular Periods Caused by Exercise?
Exercising is integral in maintaining a healthy mind and body. However, too much exercise can be detrimental. Monitor how much you exercise and always try to eat a well-balanced diet with sufficient calories for your activity level to prevent irregular periods and other health complications. Moderate exercise for at least half an hour, five times a week is recommended.
If you believe your irregular periods are a result of excessive exercise, try altering your routine. There are also other healthy lifestyle tips you can follow to help regulate your period, such as:
Eat healthy. Consume nutritious diet filled with protein, fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grain fibers, and good fats.
Hydrate yourself. Drink eight small glasses of water a day.
Get enough rest. Sleep for the recommended seven to eight hours a night.
Stay away from unhealthy substances. Don't drink alcohol excessively and stay away from cigarettes (including second hand smoke).
While exercise can be beneficial in maintaining your overall health, it's important to not over-exercise. Too much exercise can lead to a decreased body fat percentage, imbalanced hormone levels, bone loss, and irregular periods. If left untreated for a longer period, it could have severe long-term consequences. Please see your doctor if you haven't had a period for more than three months and think that over-exercise may be the cause.
Click the following link for more information about exercise and irregular periods.
- Better Health Channel. (2015). Athletic Amenorrhea. Retrieved August 6, 2015, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Menstruation_athletic_amenorrhoea
- National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Exercise and Bone Health for Women: The Skeletal Risk of Overtraining. Retrieved August 6, 2015, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/exercise/fitness_bonehealth.asp