Not sure if working out while having your period is good for you? We get it. When you have really bad menstrual cramps and feeling low on energy, cosying up on the sofa trumps hitting the gym.
But what if we told you that working out during your period can relieve some of the period symptoms you’re struggling with and is also beneficial for overall health.
Exercising during your period can combat mood swings and help with PMS, and it might also be the solution to a menstrual block and help to regulate irregular periods naturally.
Find out how you can best reap the benefits of doing exercise during your period in this blog post. (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 that doubt is off the table, let’s take a closer look at the four biggest benefits of exercising during your period:
1) Boost your mood and combat PMS
Not everyone experiences PMS or mood swings the days before their period starts. 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 their period.
No matter if you have extreme PMS or not, get your body moving and some endorphins flowing. The endorphins released during and after a workout trigger a positive feeling in the body, “similar to that of morphine”.
Studies have investigated the link between mental health and the positive benefits of physical activity and have found that exercising decreases levels of depression and boosts the mood. So why not apply that to the battle plan against the pre-period blues?
2) Enhance blood circulation and ease menstrual cramps
The endorphins released during workouts reduce the perception of pain and moving your body gets your blood circulation going which helps reduce menstrual cramps.
Exercising is also known for reducing your levels of stress and anxiety, which can then decrease 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. Sounds like a contradiction, but it works.
The first 10 minutes will be hard, but once you get moving it will increase blood circulation and activate your heart muscles. This will result in higher energy levels and help you beat the tiredness.
Especially during the first days of your period, your body needs more rest and sleep. So make sure that you combine exercising with enough time for your body to rest.
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. A simple walk in the park while listening to a podcast or doing a couple of jumping jacks in your living room are also fine.
The key to get exercise when you least feel like it is to do 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 15k run. Try some yin yoga instead. 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.
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 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, 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 you can do them in the comfort of your living room. Even just a short workout will boost your mood and leave you feeling proud and happy that you managed to complete a workout session.
Yin yoga, also known as restorative yoga comes is a popular yoga style on a heavy-flow and bad-cramp day. There are many yoga poses to release tension from the abdomen.
Is there any exercise you should avoid during menstruation?
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.
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. 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.