1. Is it important to exercise since infancy?
  2. Exercise in young adolescents
  3. Exercise and menstrual cycle
  4. Why do sports activities influence the menstrual cycle?

Is it important to exercise since infancy?

When the habit of engaging in physical activity is acquired during infancy, it tends to become an integral part of a person’s lifestyle. Among the factors that characterise a person’s lifestyle, exercise plays a crucial role for overall health. In fact, several scientific studies show that regular exercise promotes growth and development not only during infancy but also during adolescence. To maintain a good state of health and normal weight, adolescents in particular should exercise daily. However, unfortunately, recent data shows that adolescents do not exercise as much and are therefore exposed to an increased risk of chronic and metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity.

Exercise in young adolescents

In young adolescents exercise can influence the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle, that has an average duration of 28 days, can be divided into 3 phases: a pre-menstrual phase that includes the days before menstruation, a menstrual phase characterised by bleeding, and a post-menstrual phase.

Exercise and menstrual cycle are two intersecting elements in the life of women that exercise regularly. Women tend to avoid exercising during menstruation but female cycle and training can be performed simultaneously. Many women that suffer during the first phase of the menstrual cycle prefer not to train during that time but it should be noted that exercising instead could have positive effects because of the production of endorphins that relieve pain.

Exercise and menstrual cycle

During the first phase of the cycle, the menstrual one, light training is advisable; during the second phase of the cycle, the follicular one, higher levels of FSH cause an increase in strength and concentration and therefore more intense exercise is possible. The same is true for the final phase of the cycle, the ovulatory phase, which is characterised by peaks of FSH and LH. Intense exercise and training can cause disorders of the menstrual cycle such as: menorrhagia (intense menstrual flow), polymenorrhea (abnormal uterine bleeding as an anticipation of menstruation), oligomenorrhea which causes a delay in menstruation often associated to eating disorders, and, last but not least, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation for at least three months).

Why do sports activities influence the menstrual cycle?

Excessive exercise can influence the menstrual cycle because the physical effort has an impact on the hypothalamus and on the hypophysis, the two glands that regulate the ovarian function with the secretion of gonadotropins FSH and LH. As a consequence, physical effort influences the secretion of sex hormones involved in the menstrual and ovarian cycles with a reduction of oestrogen levels that causes menstrual cycle disorders.

Recent studies on women that practice sports at a professional level have shown that 30-40% of them is affected by amenorrhea during the training period. One of the main reasons for this is the low percentage of body fat which causes the body to stop menstruation as a form of protection.

The correlation between irregular cycle and physical activity is very frequent especially during adolescence when the hormonal system is not completely formed. The most common physical activity in adolescence is ballet. Those adolescents that practice this sport at a professional level undergo hard and intense training, which, together with low body weight and a low calorie diet, influences the production of sex hormones and therefore affects the menstrual cycle.