Exercising in sync with your cycle

Research shows that due to constantly changing hormone levels, women’s strength may be influenced by their menstruation cycle! This means how your body responds and tolerates exercise is going to vary throughout different stages of your cycle so for maximum strength benefit, you should be adapting your exercise routine accordingly. 

What is the Menstrual Cycle?

Your menstrual cycle is a monthly process where your body prepares itself for possible pregnancy. It involves four “phases” which are each accompanied by changes amongst various hormones. 

  • Follicular phase: Increasing oestrogen and normal progesterone and an average body temperature. Energy levels are starting to increase and your mood is increasing
  • Ovulation: Signals the end of the follicular phase and the start of the luteal phase. Oestrogen levels peak immediately before and progesterone levels peak.
  • Luteal phase: Your egg is released in the ovary. Estrogen declines, progesterone increases and our body temperature remains higher than baseline. You may experience “PMS” symptoms; increased fatigue, mood swings, bloating
  • Menstruation: Occurs at the start of the follicular phase

So, how does this affect our exercise routine?

Obviously, EVERY body is different….listen to your body and listen to what it needs. However, here are some generalised considerations to remember throughout the various stages of your cycle.


All too confusing??….. Have a chat with us about how to best optimise your training!!

Exercise is Medicine for OSTEOARTHRITIS

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common conditions experienced by Australians, being diagnosed in over a third of people over the age of 75. Also referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is the chronic condition which describes the breakdown of supportive cartilage between the joints. This results in the bones rubbing together which can lead to pain, swelling and stiffness, most commonly affecting the hands, spine, hips, knees and ankles. An effective recommendation for helping OA pain and function is exercises designed to strengthen and support the muscles and joints that are affected.  

Benefits of Exercise

  • Positive effect on the progressive decrease in strength and joint range of motion
  • Strengthens bones, tendons and ligaments that support the joint
  • Decreased pain
  • Strengthen the muscles around the joint
  • Reducing joint stiffness.

One of the most notable complaints in OA that exercise can have a positive effect on is the progressive decrease in strength and motion through the affected joints as time passes. During physical activities, muscles, tendons and ligaments work to support the joints through the movements. The more these movements are performed and trained through exercise, the stronger these supporting structures become, and the more strenuous the activities we can tolerate become. Conversely, the less we move and challenge our supporting structures, the less they can support. In OA, it’s common to see people who have pain in their joints refrain from or minimise the activities they perform that use that joint and might cause some pain. However, it’s in these situations where it’s the most important for exercise that strengthens the bones, tendons and ligaments supporting that joint, to be performed and maintain function.

A very common concern in OA is that exercise could cause pain and “aggravate” the arthritic joints, however, it’s been shown that it can actually decrease pain in the long term. Exercise can strengthen the muscle around the joints, which helps take stress off the joints while also reducing joint stiffness and building flexibility and endurance. Exercise can also help manage body weight, improve mood and help sleep, giving you more energy to move about and do the activities that you want to do.

What sort of exercise should you be doing?

It’s important to perform both aerobic exercise for fitness and endurance, and resistance exercises for strength in order to gain the full benefit of exercise. Aerobic exercises that don’t put a lot of impact on the joints, including walking,

biking, swimming and water aerobics, are a great way to exercise joints and muscles without causing discomfort on the joints. It’s recommended for the best results to try to get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, even if that’s just through breaking it into 3 10-minute chunks for 5 days a week.

Resistance exercises that challenge muscles and joints are recommended at least twice a week to strengthen and improve the function of the joints. It should be noted that while taking some exercises through a full range might cause some discomfort, it’s important to exercise through as large a range as you can tolerate in order to maintain motion through the joint and get the full benefits of exercise.

How Much Exercise Should I Be Doing?

How much exercise is enough?

A common question we often get asked as Exercise Physiologists is how much exercise is enough? This really varies from person to person, depending on your age and health status. So, how do we exercise right for our stage of life?
Children should aim to accumulate 60mins of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity EVERY DAY!

  • This should include a variety of aerobic activities
  • Aim to include strengthening activities for muscles and bones 3 days per week

Adults should aim to accumulate 150-300mins (2.5hrs – 5hrs) of moderate intensity physical activity per week, doing strengthening activities on at least 2 days. 

  • Be active on most, preferably all days
  • If you do not currently do any physical activity, start slow and gradually build up to the recommendations

Older adults
Older adults (65+) should do something active everyday and aim to accumulate 30mins of moderate intensity physical activity per day.

  • It is safe to continue with vigorous activity if previously engaging in vigorous physical activity
  • Strengthening and balance activities are essential 

Those living with chronic conditions
People living with chronic conditions are still encouraged to meet these guidelines with the guidance of an exercise professional to help tailor this to your condition. For example, people living with diabetes should exercise at least every 48hrs to help with insulin and glucose regulation or people living with chronic fatigue may need the intensity adjusted for high fatigue versus low fatigue days. 

What is moderate/vigorous intensity?

Moderate intensity physical activity is that activity that requires a moderate level of exertion. This may lead to a small “huff” and “puff” but you should still be able to maintain a conversation. It means that you’d be working roughly at an intensity of 6-8 out of 10. 

Vigorous intensity activity is exactly how it sounds… Vigorous! This is those activities where we might feeling out of breath, working up a sweat or if we rate it on a scale we are working at an 8-10 out of 10. 

Exercise During Cancer Treatment

You might think I’m crazy when I say you should definitely be using exercise as therapy during active treatment for cancer. When in fact, research has shown that second to traditional cancer therapies, exercise combined alongside nutritional support are the most effective adjuvant therapies.images

Exercise is medicine!!!

So, how does it work?? What exactly am i talking about??

Exercise and tumor growth

Exercise inhibits tumor metastasis (growth/spread)

  • Physical activity produces a large surge in a hormone called epinephrine.
  • This hormone plays a role in inhibiting the pathway that is involved in processes such as cell growth and spread.

Exercise mobilises immune cells

  • Not only are immune cells acutely mobilised (and distributed to the tumor site) through exercise but it also stimulates the production of new immune cells
  • Exercise has the greatest effect on natural killer cells (anti-cancer cells)

Exercise acutely before treatment enhances the uptake of the drug

  • A bout of exercise immediately prior to chemo or radiation therapy can enhance the effectiveness of the drug

Treatment related side effects

During treatment (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy etc), we see many side effects. Exercise has an important role in easing and managing side effects. This can include:

  • Cancer related fatigueIMG_4565
  • Decline in muscle mass and increase in fat mass
  • “Chemo brain” or cognitive decline.
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Peripheral neuropathy – loss of sensation in the limbs
  • Osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • …..the list is endless!!!

Treatment related toxicities/dose modifications

Those who participate in regular exercise have been found to have less toxicity during treatment and generally show an increased compliance with treatment dosages!!

This is also true as treatments are dosed according to body mass. Those people with low levels of muscle and high levels of fat are associated with a high risk of toxicity and dose reduction. Therefore optimising our body composition through exercise (i.e. increasing our muscle and reducing our fat) reduces our risk of these complications.

So what does all this mean?

In short – you should be doing exercise throughout cancer treatment to optimise the effects of the treatment, manage side effects and increase your chance of compliance with the treatment.

Seek the help of an accredited exercise physiologist to guide you through the most appropriate exercise for you! It is going to vary greatly from person to person but also day to day depending on how each individual takes the treatment.

Remaining safe whilst trying to optimise the outcomes of our treatment is vital!!!

So often when i tell people that i am an Exercise Physiologist, they ask me what that means.IMG_6924
“So you’re a physiotherapist?” …… not quite.
“So you’re a personal trainer?”…… not quite.

An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is an allied health professional, with a 4yr university degree that specialises in the delivery of exercise programs for the management, treatment or prevention of chronic disease, illness and injury. We can also design programs for those who are at risk of developing a chronic condition.

AEP’s are recognised under Medicare, DVA, Workcover and most private health insurance companies.

So, what does an AEP do?

  • Prescribe and design personalised exercise programs including strength, flexibility, cardio, balance and mobility.
  • Teach you how to perform exercises safely and correctly.
  • Teach you to activate your “core” and the importance of your deep abdominal muscles.
  • Assess any muscular weaknesses and poor movement patterns that may increase your risk of injury or cause you injury.
  • Use exercise in the rehabilitation of an injury or chronic pain
  • Manage chronic disease through exercise
  • Encourage and facilitate movement into your everyday life.
  • Motivate and educate you on positive lifestyle changes.IMG_5828.jpg

Who can an AEP help?

An AEP has quite a large scope of practice. In a lot of studios, each practitioner will specialise with specific conditions and injuries.

Typically AEPs use exercise to deal with:

  • Diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance and dyslipidaemia’s
  • Hypertension, coronary artery disease and other heart conditions
  • Musculoskeletal conditions such as chronic lower back pain, neck pain, scoliosis or chronic injuries.
  • Pre and post natal exercise
  • Post operative rehabilitation e.g. post total knee or hip replacement
  • Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
  • Mental illnesses

and many more!

What is involved when i see an Exercise Physiologist?

This will vary from practice to practice however, typically a session will involve:

  1. Initial assessment discussing current health status, exercise history and goals
  2. Anthropometry assessment such as waist circumference and blood pressure
  3. Physical assessment to determine your current abilities and help your AEP design an appropriate plan.
  4. Discussion about how exercise can help you
  5. Where to from here? Is there a group class you can join? A home program? A walking group? Join a gym program?IMG_5817.jpg

How is an AEP different to a Physiotherapist?

A Physiotherapist is trained to assess, diagnose and treat injuries or disabilities that affect movement and the function of your body. An AEP cannot diagnose an injury but has the skills to use exercise to manage, rehabilitate and prevent injuries. In an ideal world, AEPs and Physio’s work together for best treatment.


In the past, pregnant women were discouraged from exercise due to safety concerns. Today, we know that exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period can benefit a women’s fitness, psychological wellbeing and reduce the risk of complications, just to name a few.

Physiological changes during pregnancy

Many changes occur in the body during pregnancy and these all have an implication on how we exercise and the type of exercise that is most effective for a pregnant woman.IMG_4954

  1. Musculoskeletal
    > The most obvious change is shift in our centre of gravity with the growing belly and increasing breast size
    > The uterus itself becomes 1000x its usual size to accomodate for the baby and the weight of this is carried by the pelvic floor!
  2. Hormonal
    > Oestrogen – stimulate uterine and breast growth
    > Relaxin – Affects collagen fibers and connective tissue to increase joint laxity in preparation for labour
  3. Cardiovascular
    > 50% increase in cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute)
    > Increase in resting heart rate
    > Decrease in blood pressure
  4. Respiratory
    > Impaired ability to exercise anaerobically
    > Decreased endurance and increased sense of breathlessness
  5. Metabolic
    > Early pregnancy we see increases in fat stores
    > Later in pregnancy we see a decreased insulin sensitivity

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Lower back, Pelvic and Sacroiliac joint Pain

Whilst the joys (pains) of pregnancy are usually blamed on the pregnancy and the release of hormones, there is strong evidence to suggest the culprit of pelvic and back pain is due to the changes in posture during pregnancy. There is help for this common pregnancy aliment!!!! Researches are now showing that exercise can be the best preventative and treatment for pregnancy related pelvic pain #exerciseismedicine. Instead of resting, we need to stretch and strengthen around these joints.

Rectus Abdominus Diastasis IMG_4965

Rectus Abdominus Diastasis (RAD) also known as abdominal separation. RAD has been shown to affect 2 out of 3 mums so is a very common issue associated with pregnancy. Rehabilitation for RAD will involve:
> Diaphragmatic breathing
> Re-training transverse abdominus, pelvic floor muscles and multifidus
> Strengthen global hip and trunk muscles

Urinary Incontinence

Pregnancy and labour places a huge stress on our pelvic floor. The weight of the uterus and the growing baby is held by the pelvic floor muscles. Urinary Incontinence (UI) has shown to affect 15-30% of women post partum, that almost 1 in 3!! Individualised exercises should be given to help improve the strength of the pelvic floor and reduce the incidence of UI, not all women are the same.

Where to start?

If you’re not sure where to start or how to exercise safely before, during or after pregnancy consult an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

Contact us today!!

Who should be doing Pilates and why?

Strength training is an important and beneficial activity that every person, at every stage of life should be doing. When I say strength training, most think of big, heavy weights, body builders and elite athletes, however, this is not always the case.img_4538.jpg

Pilates is a form of strength training intended to improve strength, flexibility, muscular control, body awareness, breathing and posture. Pilates is slow and focuses on controlled movements, it is gentle on the joints and low impact. All exercises are performed with an emphasis on technique, balanced postural alignment, core strength and uses the breath to create flowing movements.

Sounds easy right? Not exactly! Sometimes, we only think of training the muscles we can see.  It is just as important to work all the deeper, smaller muscles that you can’t see. Think of those small muscles like your backstage crew, they need to be running functionally, smoothly and efficiently to make the front of the house appear great! IMG_3167Practising Pilates does exactly this. We condition these smaller muscles, along side those big ones we can see, to ensure our body is functioning as a whole.

How is Pilates different to Yoga?
Pilates focuses on strength, muscle toning, body control as well as lengthening tight muscles, with the main emphasis being on “core” strength. Yoga is generally used to improve the flexibility of the body and its joints.


Who should be doing Pilates?
The easy answer, EVERYBODY! Pilates can be used specifically for:

  • General health, strength and flexibility
  • Pre and post natal exercise
  • Chronic lower back pain
  • The ageing population to maintain function
  • Injury rehabilitation

Where should I start?
Talk to one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists to find out where the best place for you to start might be. Matwork pilates is great for beginners and a great place to go back to basics. If you have or have had an injury or health condition, you may be best to start in our clinical pilates before progressing to a generalised class.

See our class descriptions to find out what pilates we offer.

Contact us to find out more!

We all know that exercise is good for our health and wellbeing. However, many women experience and go through various health conditions or concerns specific to them that aren’t often talked about. I have a passion for women’s health and using exercise to help you and your specific experiences.

The pelvic floorIMG_1488

Whether you are a young, athletic female, a pre-natal mum, have pushed out 4 children or your going on 80yrs old, it is important for us all to have a strong pelvic floor. Like any muscle the only way to have a strong pelvic floor is to train the pelvic floor.


In the past, pregnant women were discouraged from exercise because of safety concerns. Today, we know that regular exercise during pregnancy can benefit a woman’s fitness and psychological wellbeing and prevent excessive weight gain in pregnancy just to name a few. It also helps with reduce the common aches and pains experienced as well as reducing the likelihood of complications post pregnancy.

Is is really important to make sure we are exercising safely during pregnancy. There is lots of changes going on in the body and the way we exercise is going to change throughout the pregnancy.


Endometriosis is a chronic health condition affecting one in eight women worldwide, yet there is little information available about how exercise can help manage and improve painful symptoms.

The pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis can cause a guarding mechanism within the body where the body braces to protect itself from pain. This bracing can affect the pelvic floor, abdominal wall and hip flexors (the front side of the body). When returning back to exercise, it is important to first focus on the lengthening and strengthening of these muscle groups. Exercises based around the principles of pilates and yoga can be a fantastic place to start!!!


With over half of all women over 60 affected by osteoporosis, this is a big one. Throughout early adulthood our body continues to deposit calcium and other minerals into our bones to increase their strength, being the highest during our 20s and 30s. From the age of 40 onwards, our bones progressively lose strength over time. The onset of osteopenia or osteoporosis can be delayed if we can improve our bone mass during these earlier stages of life.

Regardless of whether you are aiming to maintain your bone strength or improve it, any type of weight bearing exercise is beneficial. This may include strength training, high impact or plyometric activities, jumping and hopping. Activities such as walking, swimming and cycling are great for general health and fitness but will not necessarily play a role in improving our bone mineral density.

Breast Cancer

The diagnosis of breast cancer brings challenges, lots of emotions, time off work, a new routine not to mention a heap of side effects. The last thing you want to think about is exercise. However research has found that regular physical activity will help with:

  • Maintaining muscle mass
  • Maintaining Bone Mineral Density
  • Management of cancer related fatigue
  • Improved appetite and reduced nausea (common side effect of chemo)
  • Enhanced outcomes during and post treatment

This list is really endless!!

Polycystic Ovary Syndrom (PCOS)IMG_4711

PCOS affects 12-18% of all women. There isn’t currently much research into the specifics of what types of exercise are beneficial for PCOS. However we are able to understand some of the mechanisms of what happens when exercising and the impact it has on PCOS:

  • Resistance exercise has been found to decrease abdominal obesity resulting in improved insulin sensitivity and improved levels of SHBG (sex hormone).
  • Aerobic training has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in women with PCOS.

Our Exercise Physiologist Nicola, has a passion for women’s health. Contact us today to see how we can use exercise to help you.