Is Exercise the Key to Healthy Hormones?
Menstrual lifestyle expert at WUKA explains how exercise could be key to balancing your hormones and shares her guide to getting the most out of your exercise regime ahead of the summer of sport.
The warmer weather is on its way, and with it, a whole host of exciting summer sporting events. From the FIFA Women’s World Cup to the Women’s Ashes, the summer of 2023 is set to be huge for women in sport.
For those of us watching from the sidelines, these events are often the motivation needed to get our own fitness journey on track. The physical, mental and emotional benefits of exercise and sport are, after all, undisputed.
A lesser-known benefit of exercise, however, is its effect on endocrine health.
The endocrine system is a network of glands and organs, producing and releasing hormones to coordinate and regulate mood, development, growth, reproduction, metabolism, energy levels, and response to injury, so it is central to ensuring hormone balance.
“A healthy endocrine system is crucial for both men and women,” says Christian Phillips, Consultant Urogynaecologist For Team GB Gymnasts and Women’s Health Expert for WUKA, “but for those who menstruate and have to contend with fluctuating hormones due to their menstrual cycle, it’s even more important to understand how to keep your hormones balanced and healthy.
“Exercise of any kind contributes to more stable blood sugar levels – an often overlooked area that significantly impacts the hormones of the menstrual cycle and their regularity.
“Our bodies also produce endorphins and dopamine as a result of exercising, and the presence of these ‘happy’ hormones can also have a positive effect on the rest of our endocrine system.
“Hormones not only effect periods but also mood, appetite and energy levels. These in turn impact how you feel about working out, so being flexible and adapting your exercise routine according to where you are in your cycle is key.
“The goal is to create sustainable, healthy habits that improve all areas of your wellbeing, and to be empowered to better understand your body and how best to support it throughout the month.”
Read on for Christian’s guide to creating an exercise routine that supports healthy hormones…
Exercise is always a good idea
On average, when menstruating, you only lose about 2-3 tablespoons of blood – a tiny amount that really shouldn’t impact your athletic ability at all. So, despite the myth that exercising on your period will leave you feeling weak and dizzy, it’s just as beneficial to your health as at any other time of the month.
Exercise is also responsible for the release of endorphins, the happy hormones, ideal for boosting your mood and – as a bonus – relieving the physical discomfort of period cramps.
The important thing is not to overthink the type of workout you do; there are pros to every kind of exercise, so just make sure you are moving and having fun. And whilst consistency is important to achieving specific results when working out, don’t be afraid to switch it up if you need a change – any exercise will have a positive impact.
A good rule of thumb is to enjoy higher intensity sessions like HIIT (high intensity interval training) when you have more energy, which tends to be when oestrogen levels are at their peak in the days before ovulation (the middle of your cycle). When you’re on your period and your oestrogen levels are at their lowest lower intensity exercises such as yoga and Pilates will suit best, with the gentle stretches helping to release tension in your muscles.
Strong and stable
Your blood sugar levels have a huge impact on your hormonal health, so understanding how they fluctuate throughout the day, and how exercise can affect them, is vital.
When we eat our body reacts by breaking down carbohydrates in food and turning them into sugars, which can then be absorbed into the bloodstream. As your body’s blood sugar levels rise, your pancreas produces insulin, that signals for your body to either store the sugar away or use it for energy.
Unregulated levels of blood sugar, however, can lead to higher levels of insulin in the body, which can have a negative impact on your hormonal health, disrupting its finely tuned balance. High insulin levels can cause your body to release more oestrogen, leading to uncomfortable period symptoms .
Controlling your blood sugar levels is therefore a must for hormonal balance, and one of the best ways to do this is through exercise. Even something as simple as a ten-minute walk after a meal will help your body to better absorb the sugar into your system and means it won’t need to produce as much insulin to do so.
Food is fuel
In order to exercise well, you have to eat well. Throughout the month, hormonal fluctuations can lead to cravings, and whilst you shouldn’t indulge in every one, suppressing them isn’t a good idea either. Tasty snacking can be turned into muscle fodder if you know the basic principles to stick to.
Protein is key, and ideally should be present in all meals and snacks. Creamy Greek yoghurt, chia seeds and peanut butter are all great options for upping your protein intake and can easily be turned into a snack. Pour some berries and honey on the yoghurt, blend the chia seeds with a nut milk to make a delicious pudding, and pair the peanut butter with banana slices or slather on wholewheat toast for delicious, nutrient packed treats.
Avoiding consuming a large amount of refined sugars and switching to slow release carbs such as oats or grains, topped with protein, is a great way to maintain energy your energy and prevent the insulin spike.
Whilst on your period, iron rich foods are ideal to consume as the mineral plays a key role in the production of new blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Great sources of iron include red meat, tofu, lentils, kidney beans, quinoa, green leafy veg such as kale, and – there is a ‘treat’ that boosts our iron intake – dark chocolate!
Load it up
In the last few years, more and more women are heading to the weights section of the gym, an area once regarded as reserved exclusively for body builders.
This shift is great news for the female population, with weightlifting known to create stronger muscles, improve heart health and support hormonal balance by keeping blood sugar levels stable. Another bonus with weight training is that your body will continue to use energy even after you have finished working out.
When using weights, it’s important not to overdo it, and to prioritise form over fashion. Ignore the haters and pick up the small dumbbells – there is no one to prove anything to but yourself! Starting with lower weights also means you can focus on doing the exercises correctly, which will result in more muscle growth and decrease any chances of injuries.
And don’t be afraid that one week of bicep curls will suddenly create huge muscles – something that often deters women from picking up weights; It takes months of consistent work for muscle gain to become visible, so keep going and enjoy your newfound strength.
For gym junkies
For most menstruating people, any movement at any point of the month is a good idea as long as it feels good. However, for those looking for serious results – whether working towards a personal goal or a specific event, examining each stage of the menstrual cycle is vital for getting the most out of your performance.
Just before ovulation, tendon injury is more likely due to high levels of oestrogen, which loosen tendons . It is therefore key to track your menstrual cycle in order to progress as best as possible and to avoid putting undue stress on your body.
Make sure you’re comfortable
Another way to reduce stress when training on your period is to make sure you feel comfortable and protected – without fear of leaks or stains. In the last year, many women’s professional sports teams have committed to updating their kits, removing white shorts to minimize anxieties around leaks. Being able to perform without fear of being let down by our activewear is something every athlete or gym goer deserves.
Using period products such as a menstrual cup, period pants, or even dedicated period leggings, period shorts, or period swimsuits, means you can get on and focus on becoming stronger, fitter, faster, healthier and reaching your potential.
For more information visit wuka.co.uk.
Note to editors:
- WUKA CEO & Co-Founder, Ruby Raut & Christian Phillips, Consultant Urogynaecologist and Women’s Health Expert are available for interview
- Please contact the WUKA team should you be interested in receiving product samples for review or for competition prizes
For further press information, please contact:
Rebecca Claxton | Anna Nyman | Elsa Findlay | Julie Aguilera Kemp
T: +44 (0)203 440 8930
E: [email protected]
Founded in 2017 by husband and wife team, Ruby Raut and Dave Slocombe, WUKA is the UK’s leading period wear brand and was the first in the UK to produce fully leak-proof reusable period underwear that completely replaces the need for pads and tampons. Just one pair of WUKA period pants can save 200 single-use plastic-riddled disposables from going to landfill or polluting our oceans.
WUKA stands for Wake Up Kick Ass; because nothing should hold women back when on their period. The brand strives to empower the menstruating population, improve access to quality, sustainable period products, eliminate period poverty, and remove period shame and stigma.
Offering a range of award-winning undies to suit different menstrual flows, WUKA period pants hold from two to six tampons worth of period blood; the highest absorbency of any other period products. They are also available in the most extensive range of sizes on the market – from XXS, right up to 6XL.
WUKA also offers period leggings, period sports shorts, period swim bikini briefs, and a number of period accessories and gifts, including a wearable hot water bottle, wash bags, period wellness sets, and starter kits for tweens and teens.
All WUKA products are mindfully created, using the highest quality planet-friendly fabrics, to be both great for the body and good for the environment. From the Better Cotton Initiative, Organic Certified, to Vegan, PETA approved and certified Carbon Neutral+, WUKA underwear is all accredited and designed with the future in mind. Equality, inclusivity, and social & environmental responsibility are at the heart of everything WUKA does.
WUKA is an award-winning business and in 2022 received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development, as well as the Sustainability Entrepreneur of the Year Award, for co-founder Ruby, at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. In 2023, WUKA became the first reusable period underwear and sportswear brand to be granted B Corporation certification.
WUKA is an official supporter of Wales Women, the Welsh National Rugby team, Watford F.C. Women’s team and the London Titans Wheelchair Basketball.
WUKA is available in Morrisons, Superdrug, Planet Organic, Urban Outfitters, and a range of independent zero waste and fashion retailers. You can also purchase WUKA products directly on from: www.wuka.co.uk.