Endometriosis management includes taking medications and making lifestyle changes, such as exercising often. Although experts are still looking into this, certain kinds of exercise are often beneficial for people with endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a relatively common condition that causes painful periods, irregular menstrual bleeding, and infertility. It develops when cells similar to the uterine lining grow outside of your uterus and into other areas of the female reproductive system. These may include the ovaries, cervix, or fallopian tubes.

There’s currently no cure for endometriosis. Treatment plans tend to consist of taking medications, getting surgery, and making lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms.

Exercise may help alleviate your symptoms, and it may offer both direct and indirect benefits. However, research into the precise ways exercise helps with symptoms is ongoing.

Learn more about how exercise may help with endometriosis and get guidance on some of the best workouts to discuss with a doctor.

Doctors tend to recommend exercise, or physical activity, as a complementary treatment method for endometriosis.

In fact, the Office on Women’s Health recommends getting at least 4 hours of exercise per week. Regular workouts, according to the health agency, can help moderate the amount of estrogen in your body and reduce body fat. Both of these may worsen your endometriosis symptoms.

Other potential benefits of regular exercise, according to a 2021 review, include positive effects on your physical and mental well-being. These may also be indirect effects. Although exercise might not directly influence endometriosis, you may feel better able to manage it.

The authors of the same review noted that although some previous studies showed reduced pain and stress from exercise, it’s still unclear exactly how it directly affects endometriosis.

A separate 2021 systematic review suggested that exercise could help “pain perception” related to endometriosis because of its effects on inflammation. However, the authors also said there’s not enough evidence to support exercise as a pain-relieving method for this condition.

As a 2023 study found, physical activity levels were lower in those with endometriosis than in control groups. Here, researchers hypothesized that painful periods and depression contributed to lower rates of exercise and even increased the risk of heart disease.

Also, despite the exercise recommendations that health experts make for people with endometriosis, it can be difficult to start an exercise program if you don’t feel well. The key to benefiting from exercise with endometriosis is finding a program you can stick with.

Possible exercises that may benefit your endometriosis include:

  • Aerobic exercises: Walking, swimming, and biking can help reduce estrogen levels as well as inflammation. This may help reduce endometriosis symptoms, too.
  • Yoga: This ancient practice can help build strength and flexibility, as well as reduce pain and stress associated with endometriosis. According to a 2017 randomized controlled trial, hatha yoga can reduce pelvic pain in endometriosis.
  • Pelvic floor exercises: Exercises that strengthen the pelvic area muscles and improve joint mobility may help with endometriosis. Examples include Cat-Cow stretches, pelvic tilts, and Pilates-inspired 100s.

Although exercise may reduce estrogen, improve your mood, and boost your overall physical health, there are still some caveats to consider when starting a workout program with endometriosis.

A more recent 2023 review advised people with endometriosis to avoid intense exercises, suggesting that these could worsen symptoms. Examples of vigorous activities that you may want to consider avoiding include:

  • jogging
  • running
  • contact sports
  • intense cycling

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that what’s considered an “intense” exercise is highly subjective, especially if you’re new to working out. This is why it may be beneficial to speak with a doctor before getting started with an exercise program for endometriosis.

When to stop an exercise

Stop exercising immediately and seek medical help if you experience any of the following:

  • chest pain
  • extreme shortness of breath
  • rapid heartbeat
  • pain or discomfort that worsens with exercise
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Currently, there’s no cure for endometriosis. Medical treatments and lifestyle changes can help you manage this condition.

Aside from exercise, a doctor may suggest these other ways you can help manage your endometriosis symptoms:

  • Hormonal birth control: Switching to a method with lower levels of estrogen, or newly starting birth control, may help reduce pain and heavy bleeding.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may reduce endometriosis-related pain.
  • Caffeine: You may wish to reduce your intake of caffeine, including coffee, caffeinated teas, soda, and energy drinks.
  • Alcohol: You may also want to lower your alcohol intake. Alcohol may increase estrogen levels, which can then worsen endometriosis symptoms. If a doctor says it’s safe for you to drink alcohol, try not to consume more than one drink each day.
  • Complementary practices: Acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic care are among some of the methods you may want to consider discussing with a doctor.

Although doctors don’t consider it a stand-alone treatment measure, exercise may help complement your overall endometriosis management plan. It can help boost your mood, decrease your estrogen levels, and reduce any underlying inflammation.

More research is needed to confirm if exercise definitively has direct effects on endometriosis symptoms, such as pain.

In the meantime, it’s worth talking with a doctor about getting started with an exercise program. Above all else, finding an activity that makes you feel good will increase your chance of sticking with it in the long term.