Millions of women around the world experience painful physiological changes every month as a result of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). The symptoms of PMS are disruptive enough that some 5 million of the 40 million sufferers worldwide regularly seek medical treatment due to the stress and discomfort of symptoms for which there is no concrete cure. A new study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research assessed the effectiveness of exercise on 40 young Iranian women (their median age is 20 years old) in lessening the severity of PMS symptoms. The women included in the study had regular menstrual cycles, did not exercise regularly for months before the study, did not have a history of disease and were not on any sort of specialized diet.
Before the test, the women were asked to fill out a questionnaire to rate their overall health as well as the severity of a range of physical and psychological PMS symptoms. Participants recorded their symptoms for two cycles before the aerobic training and for two cycles during the aerobic training. Each woman then participated in three one hour sessions a week of exercise for eight weeks, with each session including a similar range of exercises and increasing in intensity. The study results were statistically analyzed.
There was a notable range in the results between the pre-aerobic test numbers and the post-aerobic test numbers: the mean score of physical symptoms dropped from 23 to about 7, and the mean score of psychological symptoms dropped from about 24 to about 11. Though this was just a small study and the symptoms were self-reported, the findings nonetheless point to a high probability that regular exercise can significantly reduce the severity of a range of PMS symptoms.
This is just one of many studies that suggest that moderate aerobic training is an effective treatment for women suffering from PMS symptoms. There are several possible reasons for this. One theory is that exercise it produces endorphins and lessens cortisol, thereby improving pain tolerance and lowering depression and other psychological symptoms. Exercise also can help to reduce the levels hormones like aldosterone, which is believed to be responsible for fluid retention during PMS. Exercise also can help balance or mitigate the effects of hormones such as prolactin, leptin estrogen and progesterone.