Did you ever use your period as an excuse to skip gym class? Same. But motivation aside, let’s chat about the pros and cons of working out on your period.
Exercise is good for you, plain and simple. And while you may not feel like working out during your period, it can be super beneficial. Here’s why exercising can make your womanly woes less trying.
To quote “Legally Blonde,” “exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy.” Boosting those endorphins boosts your energy, lessening the general sense of lethargy that often shows up “that time of the month.”
Endorphins are also your body’s natural pain reliever, so increased levels can help soothe those annoying cramps, aches, and pains.
I’ve got the power!
Feel like a hormonal blob of exhaustion? Time to lift brah! Studies suggest that estrogen levels are highest during the first 2 weeks of your cycle (the time from the beginning of your period until ovulation), allowing you to experience greater physical gains.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, cardiovascular exercise can reduce fatigue and depression. They recommend getting 30 minutes of cardio most days of the week, not just on the days you have symptoms. For long-term period relief, consistency is key!
You gotta go with Aunt Flo’s flow. The first few days of a menstrual cycle tend to be the most physically taxing. That means heavier bleeding and more pronounced cramping. On those days, swap out the advanced spin class for one of these.
Yoga and pilates
You may feel crankier or more scatterbrained than usual on the days leading up to your monthly lady bill. That’s the best time to try activities that relax your body and reduce physical discomfort.
Think balance based exercises that encourage you to work at your own pace and allow you to focus on your breathing. Yoga and pilates also build core strength, which can reduce the severity of cramps over time.
Since your lift potential is greater on your period, try light strength training and power based moves. Doing so will also increase physical strength while improving muscle flexibility.
If you don’t have access to a gym, try some of the many free apps and online videos from the comfort of your crib.
Opt for a walk
Studies show our lungs function better toward the end of a menstrual cycle. So, increase your cardio toward the end of your cycle, and on those heavy days, enjoy a gentle walk or leisurely bike ride. The light movement will still boost your endorphins and help with blood circulation.
Looking for some quicker fixes for period discomfort? Try these:
- Have an orgasm. It helps your uterus shed its lining faster and pushes menstrual blood away from the pelvis.
- Take a hot bath. This can help reduce muscle spasms and relax the body.
- Use a heating pad or ice pack. Alternate between cool and hot compresses applied to your abdomen to help soothe cramps and soreness.
- Rest. Sometimes your body just needs to catch up on Zzz’s to get back to normal.
But wait, there’s more!
It works wonders for just about everything, especially digestive issues. Hormonal fluctuations may be behind irregular period poo (e.g. constipation, nausea, and diarrhea).
While totally normal, these issues are less than pleasant. In addition to drinking your 64 ounces of water per day, limit your intake of dehydrating beverages like coffee, energy drinks, and alcohol.
Over the counter and to the womb
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen can help take the edge off. Stick to the proper dosages though; even OTC meds can be dangerous when abused.
Whether you prefer tampons, pads, or menstrual cups, there’s no right or wrong, just be prepared. We’d hate for you to miss Zumba on account of “a flood.”
Chances are you can stick to your normal workout routine while you’re on your period. So really, there’s no list of exercises to avoid entirely. Not all periods are created equal, and you should listen to how you’re feeling before embarking on a sweat sesh — period or no period.
If you’re particularly sluggish and crampy, don’t force yourself to make it through a “ninja warrior” level workout. This will only further exhaust you and possibly worsen cramps and muscle soreness.
The risks of overexercising
Overexercising can cause your period to stop for months at a time, aka amenorrhea. This is more common in professional athletes and those undergoing intense, GI-Jane-level physical training.
Other possible causes of amenorrhea include stress, low body weight, certain medications, and contraceptives. If you start missing periods, it’s super important to talk with your doctor.
Research shows long-term amenorrhea can lead to other health issues like osteoporosis and infertility.
There’s no scientific reason to not work out while menstruating. On the flip side, research shows your health can benefit from working out during that time of the month.
Period pain can range from “I feel a bit off” to “WHY DOES MY UTERUS HATE ME?” So, adjust your fitness regime accordingly. It’s all about doing what’s best for you and your body. Be one with your uterus — and when in doubt, ask your gyno.