Menstruation in sport and the need for more education

Discussing periods and how they affect sports and physical activity is not something that often comes up in conversation, especially with those who don’t engage with sports as much.

The correlation between menstruation and exercise has been noted by health and period tracking apps such as Clue, which now allows users to track their physical activity as well as period symptoms. It is definitely a welcome feature, as users can view all previous cycles and acknowledge how their ability for physical activity may differ at different points in their cycle. 

In my opinion, this is such a positive aspect, as it removes the idea that periods are an obstacle within peoples’ training regimes. Instead, it’s a way for those partaking in physical activity to become more methodical with their training and more in touch with dealing with their symptoms. After all, it’s super important that people can manage symptoms within everyday life as well as sporting activities. Menstrual cycles shouldn’t act as a barrier stopping people from doing what they enjoy. With this in mind, I also think it’s really important that there’s always a level of understanding for those that don’t feel up to participating in sports because of their menstrual cycle.

Through our interviews with UEA Sports Presidents for our #BleedLikeAChampion campaign, we have noticed a running theme: people are comfortable discussing their period and its impacts with others who menstruate, but do not discuss it or feel comfortable bringing it up with those who don’t. 

This, in my opinion, speaks to a wider issue: until we include people who do not menstruate in the conversation, we cannot rid ourselves of the stigma. The presidents all agreed that more education within sports on periods, the menstrual cycle, and its impacts would be incredibly beneficial. I am not a sporty person myself, however, I remember always being told in secondary school P.E. that instead of sitting out of the lesson, “exercise will help cramps!!”. Whilst this may be true for some, as I have gotten older, I have realised how much conditions like PCOS and endometriosis can be utterly debilitating, and make it extremely hard to get through a regular day let alone through a session of exercise. I also remember feeling isolated when I was on my period and competing in sports because I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Furthermore, it almost became a mockery that if people who menstruate let the teacher know they could not partake in P.E. or swimming that day, it was just an excuse, and they were faking it. This kind of mindset is extremely harmful and can really impact young menstruators’ views of their bodies, their sporting abilities, and their self-confidence. 

We need to remember that everyone deals with menstruation differently and understanding and supporting each other with symptoms goes a long way. We also need more education within sports on periods, so that we can foster an uplifting and empowering environment for all those who menstruate (and those who don’t!).

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August 2022
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