Body Blog: Menstruation Myth Busted

Recently, Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times reported some exciting news for the ladies: new scientific evidence is debunking the myth that a woman’s menstrual cycle negatively affects her athletic performance.
Female athletes, especially those involved in collegiate and professional-level sports, have long struggled to be taken seriously and treated as equals to their male counterparts. Many positive advances have been made, but with several universities still finding ways around Title IX – the law that banned sex discrimination in all federally funded education programs – it’s clear that the fight isn’t over.
The “mystery” of menstruation has been an integral part of the argument against women in sports. Many coaches, and even athletes, still believe that women are unable to perform to the best of their abilities at certain points in their cycle due to hormone fluctuations. However, there is disagreement about exactly what time of the month a woman will experience her athletic low, and past scientific studies on the issue have been contradictory and inconclusive. Female athletes are also often told to either begin using birth control pills or stop using them in order to alter their hormone levels.
But now, a European study focusing on female rowers has provided evidence that a woman’s hormone levels do not affect her athletic performance. Some subjects of the study were using the birth control pill, and others were not. Some of the rowers were competitive athletes, and others were recreational athletes. Every participant came into the lab several times throughout the month and performed a fitness test on a computerized rowing machine. Each visit, whether women’s estrogen levels were at their peak or at their lowest point, their measures of strength and endurance never varied.
Another study recently performed at the University of Denmark found that women aren’t the weaker sex – quite the opposite, in fact. The study showed that during physical training, women’s tendons and ligaments did not become as thick and strong as men’s did. However, after women stopped or cut back on their workouts, they did not lose strength as quickly as men did. Why? Scientists think it’s a protection against weakness during periods of inactivity, like pregnancy. Not too shabby, huh?
So what does this mean for you?
Well, it may leave you with one less excuse to skip the gym, but you have to admit this is pretty awesome! This is just more proof that nothing should stop you from getting out, getting fit and having fun. Oh, and giving all those boys a run for their money.

Intro to Cooking: Chickpea Burgers
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