Does going to the gym or keeping up with your workout become extremely difficult on the first day of your period? It's likely you feel low on energy the first day of your period and that the idea of doing any physical activity sounds like torture.
But did you know that exercising during your period can help release menstrual cramps, combat mood swings and help with PMS? It might also be the solution to a menstrual block and help to regulate irregular periods naturally.
Trust us, it’s totally worth to get your lovely behind off the sofa and moving while you’re menstruating. Stick with this blog post to find out how you can best reap the benefits of doing exercise during your period. (Spoiler: once you see how working out during your period increases your well-being, you'll be wondering how you survived your periods before.)
Are there any health risks of exercising on your period?
No study has ever found negative effects or health risks from working out during your period. In fact, a study done at the Umeå University, Sweden, has shown that training the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle (each cycle starts with the first day of your period) actually optimizes your results: “Training during the first two weeks of the cycle is more beneficial to optimize resistance training, than the last two weeks.”
Now that all excuses off the table, let’s take a closer look at the 4 biggest benefits of exercise during your period:
1) Boost your mood and combat PMS
PMS and mood swings vary strongly from person to person. Some of us with a uterus might not even feel any mood changes, whereas others might have an inexplicable feeling of being down the days before or during the first days of your period.
No matter if you have extreme PMS or not, get your body moving and some endorphins flowing: “When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine”
Studies have proved that people experiencing depression benefit from exercise as it decreases levels of depression and boosts the mood. So why not apply that to the battle of the pre-period blues?
2) Enhance blood circulation and ease menstrual cramps
As mentioned above, the endorphins released during workouts reduce the perception of pain, gets your blood circulation going and helps reduce menstrual cramps.
Exercising is also known for reducing your levels of stress and anxiety, which can then reduce the severity of your menstrual cramps. It's all connected.
3) Exercising beats fatigue and headaches
When you feel particularly low on energy, that's when you should definitely go to the gym, a yoga class or take a walk in the park.
The first 10 minutes will be hard, but once you get moving it will strengthen blood circulation and activate your heart muscles. This will result in higher energy levels and help you beat the tiredness.
Still and especially during the first days of your period, your body needs more rest and sleep. So make sure that you combine the exercise and give your body time to rest as well. No Netflix session has ever felt better than after moving for a little bit.
4) Regulate irregular periods naturally
If you have irregular periods or your period is overdue, physical activity can help your menstrual cycle get back on track. Being active the days before you expect your period to come and pairing it with a healthy diet, will support your period to be regular. There are some fruits and herbs that act as emmenagogues and can help kickstart a late or irregular period. Try to eat some pineapples, papaya and parsley.
What exercise is best during your period?
It doesn’t have to be a hardcore cardio workout to experience the benefits of working out during your period. Simply a walk in the park or a couple of jumping jacks in your living room are also fine.
Since it takes a bit of discipline to get moving when you least feel like it, go for something you actually enjoy. If you’ve got particularly strong menstrual cramps or are feeling down, it’s not very likely you’ll have the mental and physical strength to push yourself through a 10k run. Try some yin yoga instead, or maybe you'll enjoy some gentle pilates.
Be realistic with yourself and listen to your body. You’ll know if you feel like running a couple of miles or much rather need some menstrual cramp-relieving yoga stretches.
Here are 3 types of exercises you can choose from that are recommended to do during your period:
Light cardio workout
Do anything from taking a walk while listening to a podcast to a relaxed jog around the park. Choose one of your favourite exercises.
And hey, let's not forget that sex is also physical activity and can do wonders in releasing menstrual cramps.
Easy exercises you can do at home
You might not feel like going to the gym during your period, which is completely fine. But don’t let that stop you from exercising.
Youtube is full of easy 10-minute workout videos that will energize you, release tension and leave you feeling proud and happy that you managed to complete a workout session. And you can do them in the comfort of your living room.
Like mentioned above, yin yoga, also known as restorative yoga comes in quite handy on a heavy-flow and bad-cramp day.
Is there any exercise you should avoid during menstruation?
As mentioned in the first part of this blog post, there are no negative consequences when working out during your period.
But there is a constant debate going on about inverted yoga poses and menstruation. The party arguing against inverted yoga poses during your period believe that standing on your head may engorge your blood vessels in your uterus, which can lead to more period flow and more cramps.
But recent studies have shown that there is no grounds to back up any theories of negative effects. Listen to your body and go with the flow (pun intended).
Moreover, some yoga teachers will treat you like a queen if you mention you're on your period and if you're lucky, they'll bring you an extra warm blanket during the last savasana.
Exercise during your period: 2 extra tips for a pleasant experience
1. Use a menstrual product that makes you feel comfortable
Have you ever thought about the fact that it might be the period product you’re using that's stopping you from doing what you want to do during your period?
Let's look at exercising with a pad, for instance. There's the rash you're very likely to get from the chafing of the pad wings against your inner thighs or the unpleasant smell from a full pad mixed with sweat. Heck, now that doesn't make exercising on your period any easier, does it?
Maybe you’re also afraid of a leaking (sweating + heavy periods is almost a guarantee for stains) because the pad or tampon is not enough to get you through an hour of workouts in the gym. Well, that’s why menstrual cups are so great! There's no smell as the period blood is collected inside the body and doesn't come into contact with oxygen. Plus, the period cup will stay in place (as opposed to doing squats with tampons...) and holds 4-5x the capacity of a regular tampon.
Some menstrual cup users are so comfortable with their cup in, they say they even forget they're wearing one. Imagine you'd be able to completely forget about your period because you trust your menstrual product so much. Your active lifestyle wouldn't have to stop just because of your period.
2. Work with your menstrual cycle
You can’t go full power every day of the month. Your menstrual cycle simply won’t let you. But that doesn’t mean that you’re missing out or have to suffer from it. Much rather use the different phases for different activities.
For instance, go full power and try new workout routines around ovulation and remember to go slow the days before and during your period.
To best adjust your exercise to your menstrual cycle, start tracking your period.
If you feel like working out during your period there is nothing that should stop you. Use physical activity to combat period problems such as PMS, menstrual cramps or tiredness.
You don't need to go for a hardcore cardio workout, the key is to simply get moving and release some endorphins that will increase your well-being.
Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a medical or health professional. The purpose of this blog is informative and to share an experience – not to give health or medical advice. You should always do your own research when it comes to your health.