Looking for the best exercise for fibroids? Exercise alone won't reduce the size or number of fibroids, but it may improve your symptoms. The benefits are even greater for women who eat a balanced diet and try to maintain a healthy weight.
Regular exercise may protect against fibroids by helping you maintain a normal weight and healthy insulin levels. If you're obese or overweight, you can mix weight training, interval training and full-body circuits to get leaner.
Understand Your Risk Factors
About 20 to 50 percent of women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, have fibroids. Also known as myomas, these benign tumors grow within the walls of the uterus and range in size. Generally, they stop growing after menopause, states the University of California, San Francisco.
Several types of fibroids exist. Some are asymptomatic, while others may cause painful periods, heavy bleeding, frequent urination, lower back pain and abdominal pain. It's estimated that approximately 30 percent of women with symptoms experience these issues, reports the Cleveland Clinic.
Before you start exercising or practicing yoga to shrink fibroids, it's important to know your risk factors. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, overweight and obese women are more likely to develop this condition. Genetics and ethnicity play a role too. However, the exact cause is unknown.
According to a review published in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion in August 2018, obesity is a major risk factor for uterine fibroids. Excessive adipose tissue promotes estrogen production, which stimulates fibroid growth. At the same time, it decreases the production of sex hormone-binding globulin, which further raises estrogen levels.
Obesity and inflammation are strongly related. Excess fat stimulates the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and adipokines, causing an increase in free radicals. These factors promote the development of uterine fibroids.
Does Exercise Help?
Fibroids are treated with medications or surgery. Another option is uterine artery embolization, a non-surgical procedure used to cut off the blood supply of the fibroids, causing them to shrink. The best approach depends on your symptoms as well as on the type and number of fibroids, points out the Cleveland Clinic.
Unfortunately, there is no specific exercise for fibroids. But this doesn't mean that physical exercise won't help. On the contrary — it can help you get leaner and prevent you from getting fibroids in the first place.
As explained in the Current Medical Research and Opinion review, bad eating, lack of exercise and weight gain are modifiable risk factors. Regular exercise may help decrease insulin and estrogen levels, reducing your risk of developing this condition.
A diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish may also protect against fibroids, states the above review. Increased insulin levels promote fibroid growth, so it makes sense to cut down on sugar and refined carbs. According to the Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, the worst foods for fibroids are those with a high glycemic load, including white flour, fries, white rice, candies and soda.
Read more: Foods to Avoid With Fibroids on the Uterus
Best Exercise for Fibroids
As far as exercise goes, listen to your body and be realistic about what you can and cannot do. If you have back or abdominal pain, you may not be able to perform certain movements. Aim for a combination of strength training, full-body circuits and steady-state cardio or interval training to torch stubborn fat and balance your hormones.
Strength training, for example, may help build and preserve lean mass and reduce body fat, points out New Mexico State University. Additionally, it may improve insulin response and glycemic control.
For best results, focus on compound exercises. According to the American Council on Exercise, squats, lunges, bench presses, push-ups and other compound movements burn more calories than single-joint exercises such as tricep extensions or barbell curls.
You may also want to try HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. This training method, which alternates between short, intense bursts of exercise and active recovery or rest, may increase insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake while reducing cholesterol levels, reports a small study featured in Acta Physiologica in April 2018. On top of that, it burns massive calories and promotes cardiovascular health, states the American Council on Exercise.
Is This an Emergency?
- University of California, San Francisco: "Fibroids"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Fibroids"
- Current Medical Research and Opinion: "From Obesity to Uterine Fibroids: An Intricate Network"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar"
- New Mexico State University: "The Benefits of Strength Training and Tips for Getting Started"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"
- Acta Physiologica: "High‐Intensity Interval Training Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Older Individuals"
- American Council on Exercise: "8 Reasons HIIT Workouts Are So Effective"