4 Best Exercise Habits for Endometriosis

for people with endometriosis, a disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other parts of the body (such as the ovaries, bowel, or bladder) and often sheds painfully during your period, exercising can be hit or miss. But generally speaking, “exercise is a net positive with endometriosis,” says Amy Roskin, MD, board-certified OB-GYN and chief medical officer of Seven Starling, a women’s health platform. He explains that endorphins, or “feel good” chemicals that are released after exercise, can reduce pain—but not for every person, all the time.

“In some people, certain exercises can increase or make the pain worse,” he adds. “This can happen, for example, when scar tissue develops from endometriosis, and activities that involve traction, stretching or pulling on these areas can increase the pain.”

so what do you do Dr. Roskin and other experts recommend the following tips to make your workout as healthy and enjoyable as possible.

4 Best Exercises When Exercising With Endometriosis

1. Stick to shorter workouts

Instead of one long workout, incorporating multiple mini workouts, aka “exercise snacking,” is the key.

“With endometriosis, it’s common to develop painful symptoms for an elevated heart rate over an extended period of time,” explains Ally Giampolo, a certified fitness instructor, professional dancer, and co-founder of The Ness, Fitness. The studio is known for its mini trampoline workouts. Exercise is a stress on the body, and the higher the intensity of the exercise, the greater the stress, which causes your muscles to tighten and spasm, and overtime increases inflammation and soreness.

“Breaking up your exercise into short bursts and sprinkling it in here and there is a great way to get some movement while reducing the risk of increased soreness.” An “exercise snack” could be five minutes of morning yoga, a short walk after dinner, half of a video dance class, or any other movement that feels good and fun to you.

Here’s a five-minute barre workout to add to your rotation:

2. Know which exercises cause you the most (and least) pain

You certainly know your body well, but some types of exercise tend to be painful for most people with endometriosis. “You want to avoid high-intensity workouts, especially those that focus on the abdominal region, pelvis, and lower back,” recommends Mariel Whitmond, yoga teacher and founder of Mindful Sound. “This can include things like running because of the impact on our spine and hips, and because of stress on the abdomen and back.”

Other exercises you may want to avoid involve going low. Adds Somi Javed, MD, founder and chief medical officer of HerMD, “Any exercise that requires bearing down—squats, weightlifting—can put extra stress on the pelvis, leading to increased pain in the affected area.

Whitmond recommends low- to moderate-impact yoga and stretching. Flexibility and mobility training, including Pilates, can also be beneficial. “Many people with endometriosis tend to fare better with an exercise program that involves lengthening and stretching the muscles rather than resistance and weight-bearing exercises, which may not be as comfortable,” says Lawrence Orbuch, MD, an OB-GYN. GYN, Endometriosis Surgeon, and Director of GYN Laparoscopic/Robotic Associates LA. “That being said, each individual should adjust their exercise regimen to a regimen that best suits their individual needs.”

3. Listen to your body and don’t push through the pain

One of the most important things you can do for your health in general is to trust your body’s signals. “Don’t be a hero,” Giampolo said. “If you start a workout and your pain level goes up, just stop. That’s your body saying, ‘I’m not here today.’ There’s no need to gain energy when your body is going through so much.”

But what’s the difference between soreness and the “normal” discomfort that can come with a workout? “Discomfort can be managed, although pain is a warning sign from our body that something is wrong,” explains Dr. Javed. “With endometriosis, the amount of pain you experience with exercise often depends on where you are in your menstrual cycle. You should monitor your symptoms throughout your cycle and note that if you have ‘bad’ symptom days or with exercise Don’t push yourself if the pain increases.”

Dr. Roskin emphasizes starting slowly and paying attention to your pain. “A bruise or sharp pain is a warning to dial it back,” she says

4. Take care of yourself before, during and after exercise

What you wear and how you treat your body can also affect how you feel.

“Wear compression leggings or shorts, which can help reduce swelling and discomfort,” says Dr. Javed. “Apply heat patches or ice to the inflamed area after exercise to help reduce any discomfort.” He recommends stretching before exercise, taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and drinking plenty of water. This will “promote peak performance, prevent dehydration and stop the onset of muscle cramps,” she explains.

Ultimately, how much you want to exercise and in what way depends on you and how you feel. No shame whatsoever. “If you experience pain before exercise, you may find that exercise can help,” Whitmond says. “If you feel pain during or after, you may want to reconsider what you’re doing and whether it’s helping or making you feel worse.”

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