Menstrual cycles can often be uncomfortable. Every month, women endure bloating, cramps, acne breakouts, fatigue and other menstrual symptoms — an inevitable ordeal.
It might seem counterintuitive that exercising and breaking a sweat can assist with feeling tired and ill. Conventional wisdom tells us to rest when we are feeling sick and unwell. Exercise during menstruation, however, is an exception.
While there are some factors to consider, such as what types of workouts are most appropriate and the severity of one’s period, overall, exercise during menstruation has a positive impact.
Is It Bad To Exercise During Menstruation?
There is no evidence in scientific literature to suggest that exercising when menstruating has a detrimental effect on one’s health. This is not to say that exercising during the menstrual phase is the same as when one isn’t on their period.
Athletic performance may be affected, and some forms of exercise may be more challenging and less viable than others. Heather Watson, a British tennis player, has spoken about how her menstrual cycle affected her performance in the 2015 Australian Open.
The hormonal changes that cause menstruation also hinder athletic performance. Body temperature increases during the luteal phase, just before the period starts, making road running more difficult. An increased body temperature raises the threshold at which one starts sweating, meaning that women who run during this phase might be less effective at cooling their bodies down.
A review and analysis of studies on the performance aspect of exercise during menstruation published in the Sports Medicine journal found that performance might be reduced by “a trivial amount.” Moreover, the design and methodologies of the studies analyzed potentially overstated the differences in athletic performance.
Performance aside, exercise when menstruating is not harmful and can imbue a range of positive effects.
Will Exercise Affect My Period?
According to the Office on Women’s Health, strenuous and excessive exercise during menstruation can cause adverse effects. If a woman who has not been regularly exercising suddenly takes up an intense workout routine, problems such as irregular or missed periods may arise. It is wise to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to avoid disrupting your menstrual cycle.
Not consuming enough calories and poor hydration can also lead to a change in menstrual symptoms, such as increased bleeding and a change in flow.
How To Exercise During a Period
There is no need to overhaul your routine to exercise when menstruating. If your workouts are generally intense, it might be worth toning them down during your period.
Extremely long workouts (i.e., exceeding 60 minutes) should also be avoided since they might increase overall inflammation. Some experts also recommend avoiding exercise routines involving bodily inversion, which might increase bleeding and disrupt reproductive organ blood flow.
It is vital to ensure that you consume enough calories and drink enough water when you exercise during menstruation. Metabolic rates vary during different menstrual phases, so you need to ensure sufficient nourishment to account for them.
How To Exercise According To Your Menstrual Cycle
Body performance varies during the two different phases of the menstrual cycle, the follicular and luteal phases.
Due to the hormonal state of your body during your follicular phase (i.e., the first menstrual cycle phase), you can build muscle and train hard. Your recent blood loss means that increasing iron intake is crucial for performance and overall well-being.
In the luteal phase, you experience an increase in progesterone and estrogen, reducing your ability to gain muscle mass. Your body also has a harder time accessing stored energy in the luteal phase, meaning that adequate nutrition and hydration become necessary. The luteal phase is ideal for milder workouts and recovery.
The Benefits of Exercising During a Period
While being active is salutary for everyone, regardless of their menstrual cycle, undertaking exercise during menstruation has additional benefits.
Some evidence supports the notion that exercise when menstruating alleviates primary dysmenorrhoea (PD), which is the chronic, spasmodic pain associated with periods. In some women, exercise reduces the need for pain medication to manage cramps.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that at least 30 minutes of daily exercise can reduce the adverse effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the physical and psychological changes that occur before menstruation.
Exercise during menstruation can also relieve menstrual symptoms by releasing endorphins, a neurotransmitter that induces feelings of pleasure and dulls feelings of pain. Furthermore, aerobic exercise can help improve your mood and blood circulation during a period.
One of the most sought-after benefits of exercise during menstruation is its effect on bloating. During a period, water retention causes women to bloat, leading to discomfort. Exercise is a fantastic way to sweat out the excess water and reduce bloating.
Exercise and the Menstrual Cycle
Menstruation can be unpleasant for women, to say the least. Their hormones are in flux, their sleeping patterns might be affected and they’re dealing with pain, discomfort and bloating.
Instead of using medication, many women have decided to work out to reduce negative menstrual symptoms. Exercise is an accessible and pragmatic way to address these symptoms and improve overall health. Whether it’s a cardiovascular routine, yoga, pilates or a strength training program, exercise during menstruation can lead to a more pleasant period and greater resilience for future ones.