When Aunt Flo comes to town, your first inclination is not to go to the gym. Fatigue, cramps, or bloating can set in and exercising seems like torture. As torturous as hitting the gym may seem, squeezing in a workout while on your period may improve your symptoms. In fact, exercising may boost your mood and promote better physical well-being.
As most of you know, there are many benefits that stem from exercising. It is a great way to relieve anxiety and depression, boost cognitive function, and get your blood pumping. Staying active during your time of the month is highly beneficial, but there are certain things to keep in mind. There are ways to make your activities more enjoyable, but you also need to pay attention to signs that indicate the body’s need to rest.
The Benefits Of Exercising While On Your Period
One of the biggest upsides to exercising while on your period is the potential to reduce cramps. A 2019 review of studies found that 45-60 minutes of any level of intensity exercise at least three times per week significantly reduced the pain of menstrual cramps. That means that brisk walking, strength training, or yoga can help you. This is because exercise increases levels of beta-endorphins, which are substances in the blood that help block pain.
In addition to reducing menstrual cramp pain, exercise may also bring relief to symptoms like fatigue, bloating, and low mood. Exercise enhances blood flow and decreases levels of aldosterone, a hormone that tells the body to retain salt and water. Movement also increases the production of various anti-inflammatory compounds. This one-two punch is effective for relieving symptoms like tender breasts and bloating. Lastly, exercising encourages the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine, which enhance your mood by promoting more positivity.
Exercises To Do
There isn’t a single exercise, or form of exercise, that is better to do on your period. Some activities, however, may positively impact your cycle more than others. Continue reading to learn which exercises are more beneficial to do while on your period.
Aerobic or cardiovascular “cardio” workouts are exercises that get your blood pumping. Popular cardio workouts include jogging, dancing, walking, or swimming. Several studies found that aerobic workouts can help shorten the duration of your cycle. Cardio exercises may also decrease the severity of symptoms, including bloating and cramps, that occur during your period. Consider taking a brisk walk or riding your bike to help boost your mood and ease symptoms that hit during your time of the month.
Yoga, stretching, Tai Chi, and Pilates are excellent forms of low-intensity exercises. Many low-intensity movements can help reduce the severity of cramps, improve mood, and boost energy levels. Certain yoga poses may also provide relief from PMS symptoms. For example, Cobra pose may combat depression and low energy, while Child’s pose may relieve fatigue and bloating.
If lifting weights or engaging in bodyweight exercises is your preferred workout style, there’s no reason to skip these workouts during your cycle. Strength training may not alleviate menstrual symptoms, but weight-lifting techniques during the follicular phase (first day of your period through ovulation) may help improve muscle mass and tone. Try to avoid heavy lifting during your time of the month, though. In fact, you may want to opt for lighter weights than you typically use.
Exercises To Avoid
Certain activities and exercises may be more appropriate to do on your period, while others need to be avoided. Many women can still carry out their regular exercise routines during their cycles, just with minor adjustments. In general, you should reduce the intensity and frequency of training during this time. You don’t have to stop working out, but cutting back a little may benefit your body. Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different, but the general consensus is that pushing yourself too hard can negatively affect your cycle. To avoid missing periods or stopping your cycle entirely, avoid high-intensity workouts like long-distance running. Consider keeping an exercise diary to note how different exercises positively or negatively affect your cycle. If you know that your energy levels are low, though, opt for yoga and other low-intensity workouts.