Marla Ahlgrimm: Benefits of Exercise to Keep PMS Symptoms at Bay

It’s free, you don’t need a prescription and it relieves physical and emotional PMS symptoms! Exercise, says Marla Ahlgrimm, has plenty of physical payoffs like higher levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, reduced levels of triglycerides (fat) in the blood, and diminished risk of calcium loss from the bones. Ahlgrimm also points out that there is an emotional upside to exercise, too, the increased sense of well-being, greater sense of calm and less irritability. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, research shows that even a moderate amount of exercise provides relief of PMS symptoms such as fluid retention, anxiety, headache, depression, backaches, cramps, fatigue and mood swings. As little as one hour and ten minutes a week of aerobic exercise, 50 minutes a week of running, or 1 hour and 20 minutes a week of swimming relieved symptoms, according to one study. A brisk 20 to 30 minute walk three times a week is the preferred exercise among many women who contact Marla Ahlgrimm, reports the pharmacist.

While Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is not a medical doctor, the pharmacist and author has a reputation for being an expert on women’s health and hormone issues. Marla Ahlgrimm often cites exercise as one way to keep the PMS beasts at bay. Exercise, she says, does not require a prescription and as an added benefit can be done anywhere for free. According to Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm, people who exercise regularly have “good” cholesterol levels that are higher than those of their peers living a stagnant lifestyle. Lower risks of calcium loss, fewer triglycerides in the blood, and less feelings of irritability are other benefits of exercise, adds Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm.



There has been no change in the numbers of women who suffer from PMS, says Carole Stanley, a physiologist who directs the undergraduate counseling program for the School of Social Ecology for the University of California in Irving. Ms. Stanley completed a research project on PMS and exercise as part of a Master’s program in the 1980s. “The symptoms certainly seem to present themselves as much as they did a decade ago,” she observes. “Younger women are very interested in learning how to handle the symptoms, and exercise is still one of their best options.” Marla Ahlgrimm agrees with these findings and speaks to her PMS patients about the importance of exercise. Low cost and nonprescription exercise, notes Ahlgrimm, is often part of a first line of offense against PMS. “All noninvasive, nonmedical techniques are preferable as a first step,” says Michelle Warren, director of reproductive endocrinology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Pharmacist Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is not a physician. This author and pharmacist is often referred to as “Dr.” by her clients as a sign of respect. As a pharmacist, she acknowledges what modern medicine has done for women with PMS symptoms; however, she says that exercise is one of the biggest allies in the fight against premenstrual syndrome. Aside from the emotional benefits of exercise, Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm points out that even in moderation, exercise can help relieve PMS symptoms. Many women who exercise regularly often have fewer headaches and less cramping and fatigue, reports Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm.



Why exercise works

In addition to strengthening muscle and bones and building lung capacity, Marla Ahlgrimm points out that exercise has an emotional dividend that is especially important to women with PMS. Ahlgrimm says that the release of opiate like substances called endorphins makes you feel good after working out. Found in the brain, pituitary gland, plasma and peripheral tissues, endorphins serve as a natural mood elevator. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that the increase in oxygen and blood flow to the tissue during exercise can reduce physical tension and take the edge off premenstrual feelings of anxiety of nervousness. And Ahlgrimm points out that as an added little bonus, breaking a sweat during a workout cuts the water retention that contributes to premenstrual puffiness.

While she is not an M.D., Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is a pharmacist with a mission to make sure that women worldwide are healthy. She is known globally for her work in women’s health and hormone related issues. One way for women to stay healthy, she says, is by exercise. As little as 70 minutes each week of aerobic exercise can have benefits for women suffering PMS, reports Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm. Exercise comes in many different forms: brisk walks, dance classes, swimming, running, bicycling. Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm says that whichever exercise the PMS sufferer chooses, just getting off the couch and doing it is half the battle.



Marla Ahlgrimm cites studies conducted at the University of British Columbia and Kansas State University that validated the benefit of exercise for women with PMS, revealing that even moderate exercise reduces symptoms. The Canadian study showed that formerly sedentary women who began to run a mile a day reported less breast soreness and bloating after six months. Women in the Kansas State University study reported symptoms of relief in only three months. These are important finds for pharmacists like Ahlgrimm, as they help to validate the actions plans they give their patients to manage their PMS symptoms.

Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is not a research doctor; she is an author, entrepreneur and advocate for women’s health. In her 30 years as a pharmacist, she says studies supporting the claim that instances of women with PMS have not changed. Marla Ahlgrimm cites a study conducted at the University of California by Carole Stanley that studied how PMS symptoms presented over the course of a decade. Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm says that though the instances of PMS have not changed, younger women are more interested in managing their symptoms. According to Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm, exercise is one key component in managing PMS and it is one that everyone can afford.



How much, how often?

The quantity and type of exercise are less important than the commitment to exercise regularly, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Twenty minutes of exercise three times a week is ideal. That is about the level you need to feel consistently well. On days when premenstrual fatigue and bloating really seem to be kicking in, even getting out of bed can seem like too much exercise, says Ahlgrimm. So, how can you get going on one of those days? Start slowly, advises Dr. Warren. If you are not used to exercising, give yourself time to develop the habit. “If you can’t exercise three times a week, try it once a week, that will be beneficial. You can work your way up to exercising more often,” says Dr. Warren..

Though she is not an M.D., Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is known worldwide as a pharmacist and strong supporter of women with hormone issues. She says that PMS can be managed in part by a healthy exercise routine and a balanced diet. She understands there are days that women who suffer with PMS just don’t want to get off of the couch. On those days, Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm recommends to patients they take it slowly and not to be too hard on themselves. According to Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm, 60 minutes of exercise split up into three sessions is ideal but any exercise is better than complete stagnation.



Making time for exercise

A frequent excuse Marla Ahlgrimm hears for not exercising is lack of time, understandable when women often work full time and handle a large amount of home and family responsibilities. If you feel pressed for time, review your list of daily chores and tasks and see which ones could include exercise. Ahlgrimm suggests walking or bicycling when possible, instead of driving, climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, or parking your car a few blocks away from work. Marla Ahlgrimm recommends making exercise a priority. She advises women to take a look at time management, citing that it’s not going to do one bit of good to exercise once a month when you are feeling uncomfortable. She adds that it’s essential to put in the time to reap the aerobic benefits.

Sometimes referred to as “Dr.” Marla Ahlgrimm, this pharmacist and entrepreneur is well known for her research into women’s health issues. Her expertise specifically revolves around PMS, menopause, and other hormone related afflictions. Exercise, she says, is one of the most beneficial things that a woman can do for herself when she lives with PMS. Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm says that you get benefits from consistently exercising, not just walking up and down the stairs once a month when you’re bloated. Although many women are caught up with family and work, making time for exercise should be a priority, insists Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm.



Make it fun

Exercise shouldn’t be boring, or a chore you dread. Marla Ahlgrimm cites group fitness classes, like Zumba, as a great way to get your body in motion. Working out with a friend or family member can make it a pleasurable activity, too, with the added bonus of time spent together. Pick a form of exercise you enjoy and do it in a pleasurable surrounding, if possible. Exercising regularly doesn’t have to become a rut if you alternate the type of exercise that you do. Jog one week, do light aerobics the next, bicycle or swim the week after that. Varying the amount of time you spend exercising by switching it off between 15, 20, and 30 minute workouts also helps to avoid making exercise a tedious part of your day.

Although many refer to her as Dr., Marla Ahlgrimm is not a clinical practitioner; she is a pharmacist licensed in the state of Wisconsin and an expert on women’s health. According to her, women suffering from PMS can greatly benefit from simple exercise routines. Exercise is free, she says, and can be fun if it’s looked at with positive attitude. Keeping the body in motion should not be dreaded as a chore, insists Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm. Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm reports that taking a group fitness class or exercising with a friend makes it even more fun and helps to create and intensify bonds.



What to expect

Dr. Warren and pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm caution women not to rely on exercise alone in managing PMS symptoms, noting that a healthy diet compounds its beneficial effects. They recommend exercise along with eliminating alcohol, salt, and caffeine. Finally, don’t expect too much of yourself right away, and remember to give yourself permission for a gentler workout on days you feel more tired than usual.

Though she is not a PhD., Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is a pharmacist with intense knowledge on issues plaguing women. She and other medical professionals worldwide say that exercise is important for all women, though those suffering with PMS will find extra benefits. She says to pick three days a week and try to exercise for 20 minutes, insisting that that is a good start to a healthy lifestyle. While Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm praises the benefits of bodies in motion, she says that managing PMS symptoms should not be left to exercise alone. Opting to eat healthy foods and eliminating caffeine, alcohol and salt will amplify the benefits of time spent at the gym, says Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm.


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