When you’re on your period, heading out for a run or throwing weights around in the gym might feel like the last thing you want to do. But actually, exercising throughout your menstrual cycle can be very helpful in relieving painful or uncomfortable symptoms of your period.
When it comes to movement during your time of the month, the most important thing is to listen to your own body, and keep track of your own symptoms. You are the expert on your own body. However, if you’re looking for a little bit of guidance, keep reading for our Do’s and Don’ts on exercising on your period.
Do: Stick to exercise that you already enjoy.
If you’re on your period, it’s likely that you’re feeling fatigued or possibly a little sick. You might also be experiencing cramps, back pain, or joint pain. It’s not the best time to start trying out long distance running if you usually stick to yoga!
Doing exercise that you know you enjoy is also a great way to ensure that you stick with any exercise plans that you’ve laid out for yourself – it’s easy to get demotivated and stop moving if you’re not having fun.
Don’t: Push yourself too hard.
Although exercising on your period is healthy, and can make you feel better, remember that your body is already working pretty hard at this stage of your menstrual cycle. Shedding a part of your organ is no joke, and if you feel overly tired, nauseous, dizzy, or otherwise unwell whilst exercising on your period, stop and have a rest!
Do: Stick to your regular routine.
If you’re an up every morning and out the door runner, or a heavyweight lifter on Tuesdays and Fridays, don’t feel like you can’t stick to your habits. Like we mentioned, you’re the best judge of what you’re capable of.
There’s all sorts of advice about which types of exercise work best while you’re on your period, but we’re of the opinion that the best one is the one you already practice and enjoy. Whether it’s a hot yoga session twice a week, swimming lengths at your local pool, or simply going for a brisk walk through the park – take it at your own pace.
Don’t: Forget to fuel yourself properly.
If you’re doing regular exercise, you need to be making sure that you’re getting enough food in general, but particularly while you’re on your period. During the week of your period, your body often has to use extra energy, and research has suggested that women might also benefit from extra calories during their period.
Exercising on your period is healthy and beneficial, as long as you’re also fuelling yourself properly!
What are the benefits of exercising on your period?
We’ve gone over some of the do’s and don’ts associated with exercising on your period, and now we want to go over some of the benefits.
“Exercising generally is great for overall health, which of course includes menstrual health. There are so many voices contributing to the conversation around regular exercise, and what you should do or shouldn’t do, and fuss about new trends around yoga or pilates or lifting weights. Try and tune all of that out, and find what works for you. Everybody’s different!”
Dr Fiona McRae, Marion Gluck Clinic.
Exercise (at any point in your monthly cycle) increases your brain’s production of endorphins – you might have heard of runners high, but this chemical reaction occurs with any exercise.
Part of the role of endorphins is to interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your pain perception. It’s been suggested that endorphins act as natural pain relief, which has been compared to the level of pain relief provided by morphine – very helpful for cramping or other period pain!
Regular exercise has also been proven to reduce stress, fight off feelings of anxiety and depression, improve sleep, increase your energy levels, and lower blood pressure. More obvious physical effects include improving muscle tone and strength, reducing excess body fat.
In terms of your period, habitual exercise can help regulate your period, as well as helping with cramps or pain (thanks to those handy endorphins we mentioned earlier), and can lessen other symptoms of menstruation such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, bloating, and inflammation.
It’s important to note that if you’re experiencing extreme period symptoms such as debilitating pain, or fatigue that leaves you bedbound, exercise is unlikely to solve this, and you might be suffering from a condition such as endometriosis, which can cause extremely painful periods. If you’re unsure about your menstrual health (or any other hormonal issues), book a consultation with one of our specialists.