Exercise, Female Athlete Triad, Bone Density and Fertility

There are multiple variables in undertaking any form of treatment, especially when it comes to the relationship between exercise and female athletic health. This article will concentrate on variables that can influence long-term female athletic health.

As I have mentioned earlier, regular exercise and physical activity can promote overall health benefits that are hard to ignore. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence and concern that exercise especially when excessively practiced may lead to adverse effects on the reproductive system and fertility. This is most often discussed in light of the female athlete triad, defined in the context of, disordered eating, loss of menstrual function (amenorrhoea), and low bone mineral density. Hence, in the context of sport, it is not surprising that several authors have reported that sports activites can lead to luteal phase defects, exercise associated amenorrhoea, and infertility in females. In recent times, researchers have undertaken study on female athletes where lean body mass is emphasised as an attribute for success. Yet despite this being the case, there are several negative health outcomes associated with the foregoing body type.

The female athlete triad is strongly associated with low energy availability, which often triggers the health implications associated with this condition. Low energy availability is strongly tied to Iron deficiency anaemia, the most prevalent micronutrient deficiency in the world , affecting 20 to 50 percent of the world's population. However, it is its effect on bone mineral density (BMD) that is becoming a major health concern. For example, female runners with low BMD are more likely to suffer stress fractures, which can limit athletic performance and end athletic careers. It has been suggested that the decrease in bone mass in amenorrhoeic athletes may be permanent, and it is not yet clear whether the skeletal deficits can be reversed, due to a lack of longitudinal research. This being so, caution must be exercised in relation to body type, exercise intensity and long term health outcomes of the athlete.

Moreover, the potential risk for infertility arising from chronic amenorrhea or even less severe forms of menstrual dysfunction is concerning. For this reason it is important that female athletes are educated on the relationship between menstrual dysfunction i.e. loss of menstrual function, and physical activity. However, it is important to note that theory based general nutrition education alone has been shown to be ineffective in remedying the above. This being so, when undertaking nutritional guidance it is imperative to seek out a health care professional that will be able to look at sound nutritional principles which are specific to your level of performance and the relationship between performance intensity and weight control. Over one third of female athletes continue to believe that irregular periods are normal , thus greater education directed towards athletes, coaches, and parents is critical in reducing the long-term health implications briefly outlined above.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss the foregoing issues please contact me on 0240235959 or 0432234822. Alternatively, if you would like me to discuss this topic in greater detail with your local sporting team or network, please contact on the aforementioned numbers.






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