Exercise for premenstrual syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Emma Pearce, Kate Jolly, Laura L Jones, Gemma Matthewman, Mandana Zanganeh, Amanda Daley

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Background Exercise is recommended as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in clinical guidelines, but this is currently based on poor-quality trial evidence. Aim To systematically review the evidence for the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for PMS. Design & setting This systematic review searched eight major databases, including MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and two trial registries from inception until April 2019. Method Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing exercise interventions of a minimum of 8-weeks duration with non-exercise comparator groups in women with PMS were included. Mean change scores for any continuous PMS outcome measure were extracted from eligible trials and standardised mean differences (SMDs) were calculated where possible. Random-effects meta-analysis of the effect of exercise on global PMS symptoms was the primary outcome. Secondary analyses examined the effects of exercise on predetermined clusters of psychological, physical, and behavioural symptoms. Results A total of 436 non-duplicate returns were screened, with 15 RCTs eligible for inclusion (n = 717). Seven trials contributed data to the primary outcome meta-analysis (n = 265); participants randomised to an exercise intervention reported reduced global PMS symptom scores (SMD = -1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI] = -1.88 to -0.29) versus comparator, but with substantial heterogeneity (I 2 = 87%). Secondary results for psychological (SMD = -1.67; 95% CI = -2.38 to -0.96), physical (SMD = -1.62; 95% CI = -2.41 to -0.83) and behavioural (SMD = -1.94; 95% CI = -2.45 to -1.44) symptom groupings displayed similar findings. Most trials (87%) were considered at high risk of bias. Conclusion Based on current evidence, exercise may be an effective treatment for PMS, but some uncertainty remains.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbjgpopen20X101032
JournalBJGP Open
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2020


  • gynaecology
  • meta-analysis
  • premenstrual syndrome
  • systematic review


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