I found a post on a popular women’s forum the other day that said, “Studies show exercise helps PMS.” Seems like common sense, right? Every day there is an article published somewhere on the web telling you how to use natural remedies for PMS, and usually somewhere near the top of that list is an admonition to exercise. You’ll find we have similar advice regarding PMS and PMDD symptoms. We’re big believers in the power and health benefits of exercise for natural relief of PMS and PMDD, and for your health overall.
It’s pretty basic: we know that exercise helps stress, and that stress makes PMS worse. There’s only one problem here: there aren’t any good studies that show that exercise relieves PMS. You read that right—most of the self-help and expert medical articles and even academic journal papers that recommend exercise are assuming someone, somewhere has proven that exercise is a cure for PMS, or at least that it helps.
In fact, a 2009 research study published in one of our favorite medical journals, the Journal of Women’s Health, conducted a complete review of the medical literature looking for studies on exercise and PMS symptoms. The author found only four studies, all of them conducted with small numbers of women, and none of them considered high-quality by modern scientific standards. She concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to reach a definitive conclusion about exercise and PMS.
You could argue that there’s no need to research this subject, since exercise is good for you anyway. Point taken. But in that case, it would be more accurate to say “we think exercise helps PMS, but no one knows for sure” instead of “studies show…”
We believe it’s worth doing the research. It would be helpful to know, for instance, whether exercise makes PMS 10% better, or 67% better. Does it help emotional PMS symptoms, physical PMS symptoms, or both? Is 20 minutes of moderate walking three times per week enough, or do you need to sweat at the gym six days a week? As far as we’re concerned, the more research dollars invested in women’s health, and specifically PMS and PMDD, the better.
Exercise is only going to help you, and it will probably lower your risk of breast cancer and heart disease. We believe it’s an important aspect of natural relief of PMS and PMDD symptoms. But until studies confirm it, we’d like to see authors refrain from invoking the all-powerful “studies show.”