Exercising on Your Period: Benefits and What to Avoid

stretching rolling

Period week is not exactly something that most of us look forward to. We often spend the week reaching for anything that can make us feel better. Heating pads, vitamins for PMS, massages, and even the occasional box of chocolates are all common things that we use to ease our monthly pain. However, one thing you may not think of is exercise. Keep reading for everything you need to know about exercising for PMS relief.

Benefits of Exercising on Your Period 

Decrease Symptoms of PMS:

Doing light to moderate exercise while on your period could be responsible for decreasing many of the symptoms that are associated with PMS. These symptoms include things like pain, cramps, depression, mood swings, irritability, fatigue, or nausea.

Increase Endorphins:

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are known to be a mood boosting or feel-good chemical in the body. The natural endorphin high that you get from physical activity can not only elevate your mood, but it can make you feel much better when experiencing a painful period.

Enhance Your Mood:

In addition to your body releasing endorphins, you also get a hit of serotonin and dopamine while doing physical activity. These chemicals are also responsible for boosting your mood and can help combat feelings of sadness, irritability or depression.

Better Physical Strength:

Believe it or not, one study actually found that the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle, starting with day one of your period, allows you to experience greater gains in strength and power. This is due to the lower levels of female hormones in the body at this time, so take advantage and try to increase the amount of weight you can lift during these weeks.

Increase Circulation:

Certain physical movement helps to increase circulation to your reproductive organs. Exercise that focuses on the leg and hip area helps to keep the pelvic area aligned which is key for healthy circulation. Things like walking, jogging or cycling are all great for this.

Best Workouts While on Your Period 

Light Cardio:

If you normally do high-intensity cardio, feel free to take it easy during period week. Lower intensity cardio workouts like walking, light jogging or aerobic activities will serve you better as you start your period. There is some research that supports the idea that your lung capacity gets better later on in your cycle. So instead of running or sprinting on the days leading up to your period, consider saving that type of workout for the end of your cycle.

Yoga or Pilates:

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Activities like yoga or Pilates are great in the days leading up to your period. Engaging in these types of activities can help your body relax more and can even help alleviate symptoms like cramping, bloating, soreness and fatigue.

Light-Weight Strength Training:

If you are someone who primarily strength trains, try to lower the volume of your weights during your period. Instead, supplement high-volume training with longer, lower intensity sessions. However, you won’t want to skip out on weight training entirely if you want to benefit from those days of increased physical strength that you have while your hormones are lower.

Workouts to Avoid While on Your Period 

Anything High Intensity:

Working out while on your period may be as simple as just lowering the intensity of your regular workouts. If you are feeling up to your full workout routine, then don’t feel like you need to slow down. However, it is never a bad idea to cut back a bit during that time of the month. Many women experience an increased rate of exertion, so the movements that you would be able to perform without issue may feel especially taxing. It can also be dangerous to keep up your normal routine if your workouts require specific skill or precision. Make sure you are listening to your body and don’t push past the limits of what is safe for you at the moment.

Anything You Don’t Feel Up To:

Some OB-GYNs will say that the best workout for you while on your period is the workout you feel like doing. Essentially, something is better than nothing. If you don’t feel like you are up to a full workout, or if you don’t feel up to anything at all, be kind to yourself and take a break. Try and plan your rest days around the times when your symptoms are at their worst, or just settle for a short walk around your neighborhood. Listening to your body is important so don’t ignore any signs it is sending you.  

Get Moving! 

Regular exercise is never going to be a bad idea for our overall health, but exercise during period week may help out more than you realize. Next time the inevitable signs of PMS start to take effect, try some light physical activity to ease your pain. It may just become part of your monthly routine!