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Rod Cedaro – Amenorrhoea and the Female Athlete

Amenorrhoea and the Female Athlete:

Female endurance athletes (particularly younger athletes) are suffering an increased incidence of amenorrhoea, or the absence of regular menstrual cycles. While for some athletes this may be viewed as a welcomed occurrence, the long-term health implications of this are potentially catastrophic.

Rod Cedaro - female Amenorrhoea

The hormonal changes that accompany amenorrhoea appear to increase the risk of osteoporosis or thinning of the bones. Although exercise has been touted as a means of strengthening bones, there appears to be a certain threshold beyond which there are detrimental effects on the skeleton. A hypo-estrogenic state (low estrogen levels) has been shown to offset the beneficial effects of exercise on bone mineral density (BMD) in amenorrheic (non-menstruating) female athletes.

Rod Cedaro BMD

In fact, one study found that although the amenorrheic athletes were exercising more (64 km per week of running versus 40 km per week), they had a 14% lower BMD than their regularly menstruating, not-quite-so-active, counterparts. A resumption of menstruation has been shown to improve BMD in such athletes.

The ideal training program to optimise skeletal health has yet to be determined but all indications are that it will call for a blend of aerobic and strength training.

For further reading, read more about female iron requirements by Rod Cedaro