Exercise To Feel Better During Your Period, New Global Study Shows
Initial results from an unprecedented global survey of active women have shown the huge positive impact of exercise on menstrual pain. A team of researchers from St Mary’s University in Twickenham, England, and FitrWoman analyzed responses from over 14,000 female Strava members from around the world revealing that 78% found exercise reduced the discomfort of their period.
- Over 14,000 female athletes from Strava’s global community of over 39 million athletes and dataset of 2 billion athletic activities took part in the study.
- 78% of women say that exercise relieves discomfort associated with their menstrual cycle.
- 1 in 3 women have missed work as a result of their menstrual cycle
- 72% of women say they have never received any education regarding exercise and their menstrual cycle
SAN FRANCISCO – March 25, 2019 – — Initial results from an unprecedented global survey of active women have shown the huge positive impact of exercise on menstrual pain. A team of researchers from St Mary’s University in Twickenham, England, and FitrWoman analyzed responses from over 14,000 female Strava members from around the world revealing that 78% found exercise reduced the discomfort of their period.
The results also showed that almost half of women (47%) feel that moderate intensity exercise (exercise categorised as ‘hard breathing, able to hold a conversation’) is most effective at combating menstrual pain including stomach cramps, breast pain, mood changes, fatigue and cravings. Additionally, an increase in the amount of low-intensity training was associated with a decrease in the use of medication to manage menstrual cycle pain.
The study’s architect, exercise physiologist Dr. Georgie Bruinvels, who is FitrWoman’s co-creator, set out to clarify confusion around common questions related to exercise and women’s periods. In the course of her research career, women have shared that they felt their period is a barrier to regular exercise or have expressed uncertainty about whether it is healthy and safe to exercise at certain points in their cycle.
“I’m really excited to be able to conduct research on this scale – something that wouldn’t be possible without access to Strava’s incredible community of active women – and hope that the results will benefit women around the world,” says Dr. Bruinvels. “We wanted to start an important conversation about exercise, the menstrual cycle and other lifestyle factors that will empower all women to work with their body, not against it. We want women to feel comfortable discussing something that is very normal and natural.”
Over 70% of women surveyed also reported receiving no education about the relationship between their period and exercise. Among women with an athletic coach, 81% never discussed the impact of their period on training. Yet the majority of women (65%) feel their performance is worse prior to or during menstruation and report altering their exercise routine as a result of their menstrual cycle (69%). Additionally, one in three women reported having missed work due to their menstrual cycle.
Stephanie Hannon, Strava’s Chief Product Officer said: “There aren’t enough public forums to openly discuss the menstrual cycle, pain and female athletes. As the largest global community of athletic women, Strava is proud to help advance the understanding of the mind-body connections between period pain and exercise. We are determined to use our platform to highlight how a lack of education and discussion is preventing healthy futures for tomorrow’s everyday athletes and future champions. The data showed that women who had received some education were much less likely to decrease their exercise participation during puberty – the time when so many girls and young women stop playing sport.”
Strava’s athletic community is growing by a million members every 30 days and integrations with apps like FitrWoman aim to help more women stay active, motivated and educated about their bodies and exercise. To learn more about Strava visit strava.com and for FitrWoman visit fitrwoman.com.
About the Study
Researchers from St. Mary’s University carried out the study in conjunction with Strava, the social network for athletes and FitrWoman, the menstrual cycle tracking and exercise app. Strava’s 39 million global membership encompasses one of the largest communities of female athletes in the world and has so far uploaded over 2 billion exercise activities – comprised of everything from running and cycling to yoga and gym workouts.
14,184 people completed the study, led by Dr Georgie Bruinvels from St Mary’s University, co-creator of the FitrWoman App. Survey respondents were members of Strava from the UK, Ireland, USA, Brazil, France, Spain and Germany.
The findings reported here are a result of a preliminary analysis of the data, with a view to future peer-reviewed journal publication of the full study and analyses.
World Health Organization exercise guidelines can be found here.
Dr. Georgie Bruinvels
Dr. Georgie Bruinvels studied for her PhD at University College London, looking at iron metabolism in endurance athletes with a specific focus on the menstrual cycle. Dr. Bruinvels is a research scientist at Orreco, and the co-creator of Fitrwoman where she focuses on understanding how hormone changes during the menstrual cycle impact all elements of training and performance including general wellness, metabolism, biomechanics and training adaptation.
The FitrWoman app provides individualized training and nutritional suggestions based on a woman’s menstrual cycle in order to maximize the benefits of exercise. The free app helps women take the guesswork out of exercise, make smart decisions and work with their body, not fight against it. It provides access to insights gleaned by leading sports data, biomarker and performance experts Orreco’s two decades of working with top athletes and their pioneering research around the needs of the female athlete.
The FitrWoman App is available to download for free, on IOS and Android. The app integrates seamlessly with a user’s Strava profile to add exercise and activity data automatically to be viewed alongside the hormone cycle, nutrition and training advice.
Strava is the social network for athletes. As the platform at the center of connected fitness, Strava’s mobile apps and website connect millions of active people every day. Strava’s podcast, Athletes Unfiltered, features extraordinary stories from the Strava community told by the runners and cyclists who live them. All athletes belong on Strava, no matter where they live, which sport they love or what device they use. Join the community at strava.com.
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