Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyEndometriosisTeam

Exercise With Endometriosis: Ways To Stay Active

Updated on October 14, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Howard Goodman, M.D.
Article written by
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H.

Endometriosis symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and excessive bleeding can make regular physical activity a challenge, but finding ways to stay active is important. Exercise offers a range of physical and mental health benefits, including some that may help you manage endometriosis symptoms.

Members of MyEndometriosisTeam have discussed the conflicting feelings they have about exercise. Many of them acknowledge the potential benefits but comment on how their endometriosis symptoms are too severe for regular exercise.

“I find that exercise helps, but I don’t always feel up to doing it,” commented one member. Another said, “I find the only exercise I can tolerate is walking or yoga. Anything beyond that I always pay for the next day with worse pain than usual.”

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to exercising with endometriosis, but certain activities may be more helpful than others. Here’s what to know.

Benefits of Exercise for People With Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory condition in which the endometrial tissue that usually lines the uterus is found outside of the uterus. This tissue and resulting adhesions (bands of scar tissue between organs) cause symptoms such as inflammation, pain, bloating, and cramping. Exercise may have protective effects against inflammation similar to that involved in endometriosis, and it’s been found to offer several benefits.

Exercise May Help Manage Pain

Although pain is a major barrier to exercise for some people with endometriosis, research has shown physical activity may help reduce pelvic pain. Exercise and repetitive body movements release endorphins, which produce an analgesic (pain-relieving) and mood-elevating effect. Physical activity also has anti-inflammatory effects that help to reduce pain.

One study found that people with mild or moderate endometriosis who participated in a low-intensity exercise program three times a week for eight weeks experienced decreased pain intensity. Research on women with fibromyalgia (a chronic condition that causes widespread pain and that’s more prevalent in people with endometriosis) found similar results.

One member said, “Exercise helps decrease pain for me. I have to combine cardio and weights. It’s hard to do it when I’m in pain, but I feel better afterward.”

However, some members of MyEndometriosisTeam have mixed feelings about exercise for pain relief. Other members have made comments like, “I get tremendous leg and psoas (a muscle under the spine) pain when I exercise. I can’t even walk three blocks without a flare-up.”

Not all research supports the idea that exercise can influence pain, either. A recent systematic review of research on the effects of exercise on pain in people with endometriosis did not find a definitive, positive effect. The authors concluded that more rigorous research is necessary to support recommendations for exercise as pain therapy.

Exercise May Help Balance Hormones

Exercise can help to reduce estrogen levels. Endometriosis is characterized by higher-than-normal estrogen levels, and we know that estrogen causes endometriosis to grow. Reducing levels of estrogen through exercise may help address symptoms.

Stretching Helps Loosen Tight Muscles

Light exercise and stretching may help increase flexibility, relax muscles, and reduce pain. With endometriosis, relaxing muscles in the pelvic floor area and other areas of pain may help to reduce pain from endometrial implants and adhesions.

One MyEndometriosisTeam member commented, “Pain is there but way more bearable. Stretching is helping.” Another member wrote, “I always get hip pain to the point it’s impossible to walk. Using heating pads, Advil, and stretching usually helps!”

Exercise May Help Improve Mood

Living with chronic pain from endometriosis (or any other condition that causes chronic pain) can become taxing on a person’s mental and emotional health. People with endometriosis are twice as likely to experience mental health conditions like depression compared to their peers and are more likely to have feelings of despair and suicidal thoughts.

Exercise can help to improve mood and mental health. Exercise helps improve mood in the short term through the release of endorphins. In the long term, exercise can help increase mindfulness and reduce stress.

“Some days, physical activity would be impossible, but on days when I just felt generally groggy, I found that it could help my pain and definitely help my mood,” a member said.

Exercise Helps Fight Fatigue

Exercise can boost energy levels and help counteract fatigue, a symptom that people with endometriosis experience at nearly double the rate of their peers.

How To Stay Active With Endometriosis

Certain types of exercise, like high-intensity programs or activities that target the lower back, abdomen, or pelvis, may increase pain or cause flares. Instead of these choices, you may find that yoga and other low-intensity exercises are good options. Always consult with your doctor or a physical therapist before starting any new physical activity routine, even those that seem gentle.

Yoga

Yoga is a good, low-impact option for physical activity with endometriosis. Several research studies have examined the effects of yoga on people with endometriosis and found benefits.

For instance, one study found that after 90 minutes of yoga twice a week for eight weeks, participants had a better quality of life and lower levels of chronic pain. Similarly, another study found that women with chronic pelvic pain had reduced levels of pain and improved quality of life after an eight-week yoga therapy program compared to women who only took nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat their pain.

Members have touted the benefits of yoga, too. “Having a good day. Just did my daily yoga to relieve stress from my body. Yoga has saved my life,” said one member.

Low-Intensity Exercises

Low-intensity exercise consists of activity in which you aim for a sustained heart rate throughout the session. Low-intensity exercise includes activities like walking, light jogging, swimming or rowing at a slow pace, or pilates.

“Swimming is not too bad. I try to swim when I can ... Less strenuous on the body,” wrote a member. “Water aerobics can be good, too,” said another.

Do Something You Like and Start Slowly

For any type of exercise, you will likely get the most benefit from it if you enjoy it.

As one member put it, “My biggest advice when it comes to exercising is to find whatever movement makes you happy. If you don’t love it, you will never make it a habit. If you were to ask me to go for a run every day, it would NEVER happen. It may take a little trial and error to find what works for you. It did for me.”

MyEndometriosisTeam members and health care professionals advise starting slowly with any new workout routine. Pushing too hard at a new exercise may lead to injury or even increased endometriosis pain.

“Start slowly with yoga, walking, or water stuff,” suggested a member. “When I work out and eat healthily I feel a lot better,” they added.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEndometriosisTeam is the social network for people with endometriosis. On MyEndometriosisTeam, more than 121,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with endometriosis.

How do you stay active with endometriosis? Share your tips in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans — 2nd Edition — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  2. Endometriosis Treatment and Support — Endometriosis Foundation of America
  3. Endometriosis — Johns Hopkins Medicine
  4. Efficacy of Exercise on Pelvic Pain and Posture Associated with Endometriosis: Within Subject Design — Journal of Physical Therapy Science
  5. Effects of Lifestyle Physical Activity on Perceived Symptoms and Physical Function in Adults with Fibromyalgia: Results of a Randomized Trial — Arthritis Research & Therapy
  6. Resistance Exercise Improves Muscle Strength, Health Status and Pain Intensity in Fibromyalgia — A Randomized Controlled Trial — Arthritis Research & Therapy
  7. Impact of Exercise on Pain Perception in Women with Endometriosis: A Systematic Review — Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica
  8. Endometriosis and Physical Exercises: A Systematic Review — Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology
  9. The Importance of Mental Health Support While Managing Endometriosis — Endometriosis Foundation of America
  10. Move To Improve. The Benefit of Exercise for Endometriosis — Endometriosis Australia
  11. The Practice of Hatha Yoga for the Treatment of Pain Associated With Endometriosis — Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  12. Effects of Yogic Intervention on Pain Scores and Quality of Life in Females With Chronic Pelvic Pain — International Journal of Yoga
  13. 7 Low-Intensity Workouts That Actually Make a Difference — St. Luke’s Health
  14. Pelvic Exercise Programme — Endometriosis UK

A MyEndometriosisTeam Member said:

I can agree to that. I found that vigorous exercise was worse for me. Even tho I have always liked heavy exercise. Over the years it makes me feel worse. And I went to see neurologist cause I was… read more

posted 10 months ago

hug (3)

Howard Goodman, M.D. is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and specializes in the surgical management of women with gynecologic cancer. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.. Learn more about him here.
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H. holds a masters in public health from Columbia University and is passionate about spreading accurate, evidence-based health information. Learn more about her here.

Recent articles

If you live with endometriosis, it may be difficult to get the sleep you need. Members of...

Best Sleeping Positions for Endometriosis

If you live with endometriosis, it may be difficult to get the sleep you need. Members of...
Members of MyEndometriosisTeam sometimes ask about oral contraceptive (birth control) pills and...

Birth Control Pills for Endometriosis: Do They Help?

Members of MyEndometriosisTeam sometimes ask about oral contraceptive (birth control) pills and...
Endometriosis is a complex and chronic condition that affects more than 10 percent of women of...

Is Endometriosis an Autoimmune Disease?

Endometriosis is a complex and chronic condition that affects more than 10 percent of women of...
Endometriosis can cause debilitating pain. Symptoms of endometriosis range from mild to severe....

Endometriosis Pain Relief: What Are Your Options?

Endometriosis can cause debilitating pain. Symptoms of endometriosis range from mild to severe....
People with endometriosis may be eligible for additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19...

Are People With Endometriosis Eligible for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Booster Shots?

People with endometriosis may be eligible for additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19...
Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the endometrium — which lines the...

Home Remedies for Endometriosis: Your Guide

Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the endometrium — which lines the...
Most people have felt tired at one point or another. However, for those living with...

Fatigue and Endometriosis: Causes and Management

Most people have felt tired at one point or another. However, for those living with...
Endometriosis can slightly increase a person’s chances of developing ovarian cancer. However, the...

Endometriosis and Ovarian Cancer: Understanding the Risk

Endometriosis can slightly increase a person’s chances of developing ovarian cancer. However, the...
If you or a loved one is living with endometriosis, you may have spent countless hours poring...

5 Facts About Endometriosis That Aren’t Well Known

If you or a loved one is living with endometriosis, you may have spent countless hours poring...
Recent studies have found that people with endometriosis have a higher risk of developing lupus,...

Endometriosis and Lupus: What’s the Connection?

Recent studies have found that people with endometriosis have a higher risk of developing lupus,...
MyEndometriosisTeam My endometriosis Team

Thank you for signing up.

close