Physical Activity and the Menstrual Cycle: A Mixed-Methods Study of Women’s Experiences

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 Manchester Metropolitan University
  • | 2 Northumbria University
  • | 3 Liverpool John Moores University
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The menstrual cycle is an important biological process in women that is associated with a range of physical symptoms, which can shape how women think, feel, and participate in activities of daily life. This study employed a mixed-methods design to investigate adult women’s physical activity throughout the menstrual cycle. One hundred and twenty-eight participants completed an online questionnaire that explored events of the menstrual cycle (e.g., bleeding, pain, fatigue) and physical activity. Semistructured interviews with 21 questionnaire respondents unpacked individual experiences of physical activity throughout the menstrual cycle. From the questionnaire data, 44 participants were categorized as avoiders and 84 as nonavoiders of physical activity due to menstrual events. Avoiders of physical activity reported longer periods, heavier menstrual flow, and higher levels of fatigue and pain compared with nonavoiders. Interviews revealed that avoidance of physical activity ranged from complete avoidance to adaptation (e.g., types of exercise). Reasons for avoidance and adaptation of physical activity included menstrual symptoms, personal thoughts, and concerns about other people’s views of the period. The present study findings emphasize the importance of not only evaluating prevalent physical symptoms, but also unpacking women’s individual perspectives and established societal norms to better understand and normalize physical activity throughout the menstrual cycle.

Kolić, Sims, and Morse are with the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom. Hicks is with the Department of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation, Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom. Thomas is with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Kolić (P.Kolic@mmu.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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  • Zamani Sani, S.H., Fathirezaie, Z., Brand, S., Pühse, U., Holsboer-Trachsler, E., Gerber, M., & Talepasand, S. (2016). Physical activity and self-esteem: Testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanisms. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 12, 26172625. PubMed ID: 27789950 doi:10.2147/NDT.S116811

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