Periods and Exercise
Does the thought of working out while on your period make you want to retire your running shoes for good? If you’re concerned about how your period will affect your fitness routine, you’re not alone!
For many reasons, a lot of people skip their workouts during this time of the month. But there’s really no reason to skip out on exercise just because you have your period. In fact, there are several benefits to exercising whilst menstruating.
Benefits of exercising on your period
1) Decreased PMS symptoms
If you experience fatigue and mood swings in the days leading up to your period and during your cycle, regular aerobic exercise may lessen these symptoms.
2) Tap into your endorphins
Exercise gives you a natural endorphin high, it can elevate your mood and actually make you feel better. Brandon Marcello, PhD, believes one of the main benefits of exercise while on your period is the endorphin release and workout “high.” He also said that since endorphins are a natural painkiller, when they release during exercise, you may feel relief from uncomfortable periods!
3) Experience more strength and power
One study found that the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle (day one being the first day of your period) may allow you to experience greater gains in strength and power due to low levels of female hormones.
4) Enhance your mood
Doctors also said exercising at this time will enhance your mood and increase circulation. Exercise also tends to alleviate cramps, headache, or back pain associated with your period.
5) Combat painful periods
If you experience painful periods, also called dysmenorrhea, you know all too well how uncomfortable this time of the month can be. The good news is that exercises such as light walking may help you decrease these symptoms.
The best exercises to do on your period
Light walking or other light cardio
Keep your cardiovascular or aerobic exercise at a lower intensity. Consider light cardio, walking, or shorter bouts of aerobic exercise. There’s research supporting the idea that your lungs work better later in your cycle, so consider keeping that type of training for the end of your period.
Low-volume strength training and power-based activities
Due to the potential for an increase in strength during this time, including low-volume strength training and power-based activities is a smart move.
Yoga and Pilates
The two to three days leading up to your period is a great time to engage in activities like yoga, which can help relax your body and potentially reduce symptoms like cramping, breast tenderness, and muscular fatigue and soreness.
Exercises to avoid on your period
Just like certain activities may be more appropriate to participate in during your period, there are also some exercises you may want to avoid.
You should reduce training stress and volume during this time. If you’re feeling unusually tired, you may want to cut back on intense cardiovascular or endurance-type training. During this time many women report experiencing an increase in rate of perceived exertion, so exercises that’re moderately difficult feel much more difficult during this time. It’s also ideal to eliminate skill and precision training during these few days.
Dangers of over exercising
It is important to be aware that excessive exercise can cause a person to miss their period.
Endurance and high performance athletes may skip periods due to hormonal and body changes. If a person has started an intense exercise routine and starts missing periods, they should talk to their doctor.
Having a regular menstrual cycle is usually a sign of good health. Starting to miss periods could signal a person is overdoing it when it comes to exercise.
Things to keep in mind
Dehydration can increase the likelihood a person will experience unpleasant side effects, including bloating and constipation, during their period. Staying hydrated can keep stool moving through the bowel and reduce discomfort during an exercise session. Keeping water on hand and taking drinks at least every 15 minutes during an exercise session can help.
Keep Period Protection with you
Exercise can make it seem as if a person’s flow increases. This speeding up is usually because physical activity can help blood exit the uterus faster. However, it is important that a person is prepared by wearing a tampon or a menstrual pad designed for stronger menstrual flow.
Some people may wear dark pants, just in case some blood gets onto their underwear or pants. Dark clothing makes it less noticeable if this occurs. Packing extra underwear or pants to change into after an exercise session can help.
Over the counter pain relief
Back pain and cramping can initially deter someone from exercising while on their period.
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help to reduce cramping before an exercise session.
Applying ice or a cloth covered heating pad after exercising can also help.
The bottom line is this: Continue with exercise, but back off on the intensity, especially if you’re feeling fatigued. Vary your workouts, take extra time to recover, and honor what you’re capable of!
Content by: Niyati Arun
Graphics by: Ananya Choudhury
Exercises during a period: What to know. (Medical News Today)