Strava, the global social network for athletes, has revealed the results of a major study into the relationship between exercise and period pain.
More than 14,000 active women from around the world were involved in the research, which was conducted by a team from St Mary’s University, London and menstrual cycle tracking and exercise app FitrWoman, in partnership with Strava.
It revealed that 78% of women find exercise reduces the symptoms of their period, with moderate intensity exercise deemed most effective at combatting symptoms.
Almost seven in 10 of the women reported that menstrual symptoms had forced them to change their exercise routine, while 88% also believe their exercise performance is generally worse at some point during their menstrual cycle.
The study highlighted a significant lack of education regarding exercise and the menstrual cycle.
In total, 72% of respondents reported receiving no guidance on the subject, rising to 82% in the UK and Ireland.
British and Irish women were also significantly more likely to have decreased their exercise levels during puberty - 40% compared to fewer than 20% in the USA, France and Germany.
Stephanie Hannon, Strava’s Chief Product Officer commented: “There aren't enough public forums to openly discuss the menstrual cycle, pain and female athletes. As the largest global community of athletic women, Strava is proud to help advance the understanding of the mind-body connections between period pain and exercise.
“We’re determined to use our platform to highlight how a lack of education and discussion is preventing healthy futures for tomorrow’s everyday athletes and future champions.
“The data showed that women who had received some education were much less likely to decrease their exercise participation during puberty - the time when so many girls and young women stop playing sport.”
Exercise physiologist Dr Georgie Bruinvels, who devised and oversaw the study, added: “I’m really excited to be able to conduct research on this scale - something that wouldn’t be possible without access to Strava’s incredible community of active women - and hope that the results will benefit women around the world.”
Other findings of the research included the role of nutrition and recovery in managing menstrual symptoms.
Of the 14,000 women surveyed, those who meet the World Health Organisation’s exercise guidelines alongside eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day were less likely to miss work due to symptoms.
Better sleep quality and longer sleep duration were also shown to be associated with reduced effects.
Strava’s 39 million-strong global membership includes one of the largest communities of active women in the world.
So far, members have uploaded over 2 billion exercise activities, spanning everything from running and cycling to yoga and gym workouts.