GYMNASTICS AND INFERTILITY (PART 1) – THISDAY Newspapers
Exercise is a physical activity that requires physical effort, and it is performed to maintain or improve health and fitness. Swimming, running, jogging, strolling, and dancing are just a few examples. As you are aware, exercise provides numerous health benefits, both physical and mental. Physical activity can be useful or harmful depending on the exercise regimen parameters: type, intensity, duration, aim, or structure.
Physical activities promote health and quality of life, but excessive or strenuous exercise exposure can have detrimental side effects, one of which being possible fertility concerns in both males and females. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse. There are various factors that influence fertility. Age, health issues, reproductive organ issues, hormonal imbalances, sexually transmitted illnesses, and any form of fibroid or uterine growths are all examples. Some lifestyle factors might also contribute to infertility such as inadequate rest and sleep, smoking, alcohol, and caffeine. Surprisingly, rigorous exercise is another lifestyle component linked to infertility.
FEMALE GYMNASTICS AND INFERTILITY
Women engage in exercises to improve their physical fitness. According to studies, many sportswomen may suffer reproductive dysfunction or menstruation issues. Girls who engage in strenuous activity often experience delayed menarche (onset of menses), cessation of menstruation, and long intervals between menstrual cycles. Infertility caused by high-intensity exercise may be reversed by reducing physical activity and increasing body fat.
IMPACT OF EXTREME WORK OUTS ON FEMALE GYMNASTS
Increased level of cortisol
Prolonged exercise raises cortisol levels while decreasing thyroid hormone levels. Studies shows that even after 24 hours of recovery post-exercise, cortisol levels remained elevated and thyroid hormones suppressed. High cortisol levels and low thyroid hormone levels have both been related to poor adrenal health, which in turn has a direct impact on thyroid function and how the body handles stress in the long run, all of which can have a detrimental impact on overall hormonal balance and fertility.
Athletic hypothalamic amenorrhea
Exercise-related ovarian dysfunction, also known as neuroendocrine dysfunction, can develop in athletes. Athletic hypothalamic amenorrhea is the delay or cessation in the menstrual cycle in athletes. Exercise causes our brain to release chemicals such as beta endorphin and catecholamine. The release of these hormones rises with greater physical activity. A high level of these hormones interferes with the function of estrogen and progesterone. This results in Athletic Hypothalamic amenorrhea, which might lead to infertility in the long run.
This is a condition in which menstruation ceases for several months due to a hypothalamic issue. The hypothalamus is the brain’s reproduction control center. After ovulation, it generates gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), which triggers the synthesis of other hormones required for egg maturation and ovulation, such as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones then tell the ovaries to make estrogen. Estrogen thins cervical mucus and, in conjunction with progesterone from luteinizing hormone (LH), prepares the uterus for a fertilized egg. Ovulation and menstruation will end if the hypothalamus slows or stops generating gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), resulting in infertility.
Low levels of body fat
The female body cannot menstruate if she has less than a particular proportion of body fat. A woman also needs at least 22% body fat to ovulate and become pregnant. Most athletes lose a lot of body fat as a result of their training and will most likely experience issues with ovulation, which leads to infertility.
Emotional and mental stress
Strong, unpleasant emotions can have an impact on the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that regulates the reproductive system and menstrual cycle. This can cause a disruption in the connection between your brain and your ovaries, resulting in delayed or absent ovulation as well as irregular or skipped periods. Regular menstrual periods usually restart once your stress level has decreased.
This could include fasting and skipping meals. An energy deficit happens when a person consumes less energy than they expend. When there is a chronic energy shortage, the body’s mechanisms save fuel for important body processes. Less important bodily functions are suspended. This includes reproduction, which can be dangerous to survival. Energy and metabolic functions block the hypothalamic release of ovarian hormones.
LONG-TERM COMPLICATIONS OF INTENSE WORK OUTS
Reduced fertility: Women are less likely to become pregnant if they do not menstruate on a regular basis, which is one of the negative effects of high intensity exercise.
Loss of bone density: This can result in osteopenia (low bone density but not osteoporosis) or osteoporosis (brittle bones that break easily), particularly if peak bone density has not yet been reached due to age.
Premature ageing: the skin loses its flexibility because of low levels of oestrogen.
Pelvic pain: Pain in the pelvic area may occur if an anatomical problem is causing the amenorrhea………………………………… TO BE CONTINUED
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