Can Exercising Postpone Your Period?

The menstrual cycle is typically 21 to 28 days; however, the amount of days in the menstrual cycle can change due to medical conditions, stress, illness, medication and lifestyle changes with exercising and dieting. Exercising excessively or participating in strenuous sports can delay your period.

Exercising too much can cause menstrual cycle irregularities.
Credit: Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Normal Menses

Menstrual cycle lengths vary from woman to woman; however, the average menstrual cycle occurs every 28 days with between four and seven days of bleeding. The menstrual cycle can change lengths because of stress, hormonal changes and medication side effects or from having reproductive diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome or uterine fibroids. Exercise can help regulate irregular menstrual cycles.

Absent Menstrual Cycle

Absent menstrual cycles that occur after a woman previously had regular menstrual cycles comprise secondary amenorrhea, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Symptoms that may accompany a period's absence are headache, vaginal dryness, weight gain, weight loss and voice changes. Significant weight gain or loss and too much exercise can result in absent menstrual cycles, according to the university.

Irregular Menstrual Cycles

Bleeding between periods, bleeding after having sex, and menstrual cycles that are less than 28 days or more than 35 days apart are all considered abnormal conditions. Some women experience abnormal menstrual cycles while taking birth control pills, after pregnancy or from changes in diet or exercise routine, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although exercise is prescribed for women with irregular menstrual cycles, suddenly adding exercise to your lifestyle to lose weight, or exercising too much, can cause menstrual irregularities, which may be temporary.

The Effects of Excessive Exercise

While exercise may affect normal menstrual cycles, excessive exercise can delay or even stop your cycles completely. Professional athletes often suffer from a lack of menstruation or irregular menstruation, in part due to their low body fat. A woman's body is meant to have a certain amount of fat stores in order to function properly. If your percentage of body fat falls too low, your body thinks that you're starving and conserves its remaining energy, or fat stores. Reproduction is not an essential function, therefore your body slows or stops fueling the reproductive system.

Considerations

Reducing your physical activity, in some cases, may be enough to restore menses. You may also need to increase your calorie intake to restore your body's energy reserves. Once the body receives the necessary calories for its daily functions, it can restore your reproductive functions. Discuss prolonged cases of delayed, irregular or lack of menstruation with your physician. She may prescribe birth control pills or hormone pills to reinstate the menstrual cycle.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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