Exercise & Endometriosis

There are major health benefits to adding movement to your daily routine, especially when you have endometriosis.

stick figures performing different sports or exercises

It’s no secret that exercise is good for you. From heart health to mental health to chronic pain, a little bit of movement goes a long way. 

But it’s not always that easy. Especially during a global pandemic.

For many in the endo community, the word ‘exercise’ can be a bit daunting or even triggering if you’ve experienced exercise-related flares, pain, or injury. 

With summer weather fluctuating across the country and The Endo Network’s Run To End Endo™ quickly approaching we’re exploring a gentle, informed approach to daily movement for any level of pain, whether you’re inside or out.

Benefits of movement for endo

Good for the whole body

Something that has benefits for the whole body seems like a great place to start when dealing with a whole-body disease.

Studies have shown that just 10 minutes per day is enough to improve oxygen consumption and cardiovascular fitness by over 4%. It may seem obvious, but a 2018 study from the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that over a quarter of the world’s population does not get enough physical activity — and that was before quarantine forced people to get creative with their physical activity.

Movement also increases blood circulation which brings much-needed oxygen and nutrients to all of the body’s systems. 

Aids in digestion

Improved blood flow directly impacts the digestive tract by keeping nutrients moving along. A 2018 study found that physical activity improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common comorbidity for many with endometriosis.

Going for a 10-minute walk after dinner can encourage digestion and help regulate blood sugar levels, but some research cautions against being too active following a meal, as vigorous movement may actually hamper digestion — and we definitely don’t need that.

Physical activity is shown to improve inflammation, sleep, joint and muscle mobility, cognitive and physical functioning, and mood… daily movement can also reduce the severity of chronic pain.

Eases chronic pain + inflammation

Physical activity is shown to improve inflammation, sleep, joint and muscle mobility, cognitive and physical functioning, and mood. Aside from the benefits to heart and lung health, daily movement can also reduce the severity of chronic pain. More research is required to understand exactly what works best and for whom, especially when it comes to endo, but a good rule of thumb is, if it feels good, do it.

Boosts mood

Aerobic exercise has been proven time and time again to reduce anxiety and depression. Both have shown to be significantly higher in people with chronic pelvic pain, whether endometriosis is the cause or not.

Increased blood flow in the brain mediates our response to stress and plays a role in mood and motivation. Being active also releases endorphins, hormones that act on opiate receptors and can relieve pain and boost mood. Get yourself outside on those sunny days and add some vitamin D to the mix for some extra oomph.

Restores pelvic floor strength

It’s not uncommon for people with endo to experience pelvic floor dysfunction due to lesions, scar tissue, adhesions, and more. Research shows that exercises targeting the pelvic floor significantly reduce endometriosis-related pain – and improve posture! Check out TENC’s EndoWell wellness resources for pelvic floor physiotherapy exercises you can do from the comfort of home.

Movement for every body

One glance down the list of endo symptoms, and it’s not hard to see that it’s a good match. No, moving your body isn’t going to cure your endo, but it might make some days more bearable. Sometimes moving from the bed to the couch is all we can muster – that’s okay too. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that exercise or movement has to be something big, but it doesn’t. 

So, what are some ways you can move your body, even on those high-level pain days? We’ve put together some activities you can explore inside or out for any level of discomfort.

Pain level: 7-10 / Activity level: LIGHT

Deep breathing — just a few minutes of deep, focused breathing is enough to help relax, conserve energy, relieve pain, and ease stress.

Stretching — from simply raising your arms in the morning to some gentle restorative yoga or pilates, as long as stretching feels good for your body, it helps. 

Tai Chi / Qi Gong — focusing on slow, deliberate movements aligned with the breath is a great way to remove stagnant energy and hone in on what your body needs.

Pain level: 4-7 / Activity level: MODERATE

Walk — do laps around your living space, walk the dog, call a friend, go around the block, whatever works! Keep it manageable and short, and gradually work your way up if it feels good.

Yoga — bring in some more movement with chair yoga, or find a video online that targets a problem area for you. 

Strengthen — there are plenty of creative ways to weight train at home using whatever you have laying around like canned goods, books, bottles of wine, tiny humans, fur babies – you name it. 

Take the stairs — If you live or work in a building with elevators, try taking the stairs one day and see how it feels.

Housework — it might not be the most fun, but you can knock two things off your list! Head out for some vitamin D and get in some gardening or yard work as well.

Pain level: 0-3 / Activity level: HIGH

Get outside — go for a bike ride or a hike, head out for a jog or a power walk, lace up those Rollerblades – just make sure you’re following physical distancing measures in your area. Get a team (virtual or IRL) together for The Endo Network’s Run To End Endo™ next month and move together for a good cause.

Home workout — that might look different every day! Try a routine of 10 squats / 10 push-ups / 10 lunges and repeat. Push-ups from the knees count too!

Dance — put on your favourite jam, pump up the tunes while you’re making dinner or cleaning the bathroom and let the music take you. Make it a solo affair or get some pals on video chat for a dance-off.

Jump — whether it’s jumping jacks, jump rope, or jumping on the bed, get the heart rate going with some cardio

Share the movement

If you haven’t signed up for The Endo Network’s Run To End Endo™ yet, hopefully, this post brought a bit of inspiration to join the movement.

Note: The content of this post does not provide or replace medical advice. It is important to follow up with your doctor with any healthcare concerns you may have and to work with medical professionals to develop treatment plans that are right for you.