Although exercising is beneficial, quite a few women believe they should not work out during this time of the month. The argument by some is that exercising makes menstrual cramps worse. Others believe that exercising only worsens nausea, leg pain, and other menstruation symptoms. We could go on for hours listing all the beliefs women have about exercising while on their periods. That said, should you work out on your period? Join us as we look at the relationship between menstruation and exercise.
Should You Work Out On Your Period?
Almost every other woman will state that they should be relaxing and not exercising while on their period. To those women, we hate to tell you but you certainly need to be exercising during your period. Although there are myths that claim it could worsen nausea, cramps, legs and back pain, experts are yet to find evidence backing up these claims.
On the contrary, experts have found evidence to back up the importance of working out during that time of the month. Here are some of the benefits experts give for exercising during your period:
Reduced Menstrual Cramps
Experts acknowledge that exercise is a natural pain reliever while you are on your period.
According to WebMD, when you exercise during your period, your body releases beta-endorphins, which are internal opioids (4). Opioids are known for pain management, which is precisely what these beta-endorphins do.
They release analgesia, which is a pain reliever and helps your body use up prostaglandins (4). These prostaglandins are chemicals that increase menstrual pain by causing muscle contractions. When the muscles in your womb or uterus contract too firmly, it makes them press against the adjacent blood vessels. As a result, there is a shortage of oxygen supply to the uterus. The lack of oxygen is responsible for menstrual cramping and pain (5).
Generally, women who are on their periods are believed to be very moody. Although some believe chocolate will help reduce mood swings in such women, it is an exercise that does the trick.
Experts state that when you exercise, you release brain chemicals known as endorphins (2). Your mood is most likely better when you are in less pain.
Read More: Does Walking Help Period Cramps? Reasons You Should Consider Walking For Menstrual Pain Relief
You experience hormonal changes when you are on your period. These sudden changes may increase fatigue sensations and even lower your energy levels. Medical News Today acknowledges that indulging in physical activity can help lower fatigue sensations and boost energy levels (7).
Reduced Risk Of Diseases
Physical activity is also crucial for women’s health as it helps in reducing the risk for several diseases. These include obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancers.
For you to gain these health benefits, there are several things you must do. First, you must pick a safe exercise with low injury risk. There is no way you will minimize disease risk with an activity that is increasing injury risk.
Secondly, you must perform physical activity regularly. Exercising once or when you are on your period will not work. You must be consistent to reap these benefits. Thirdly, the US Department of Health & Human Services recommends performing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise to reap these benefits (7).
Exercising helps reduce disease risk in two ways. The first one is by changing the antibodies and white blood cells and making them circulate faster. The impact of these changes is noticed in faster detection of illnesses (3).
Secondly, there is a brief rise in your body temperature during and immediately after you finish the workout when you exercise. According to MedlinePlus, this rise in body temperature helps prevent bacteria from growing in your body. In a nutshell, it helps your body to fight illnesses better (3).
The other reason you need to work out while on your period is because it helps reduce bloating. A week or two before your period, your estrogen and progesterone hormones change. As a result, the progesterone levels tend to fall, making the uterus shed its lining, resulting in menstrual bleeding (6).
Besides the bleeding, these hormonal changes also result in bloating. Bloating may cause discomfort during your period. The best remedy for bloating during your period is exercise. So, talk to your doctor for suggestions on safe exercises to perform when on your period to manage bloating.
In addition to exercise, your doctor may also recommend other ways to help manage bloating. These include reducing the salt you consume, drinking enough water, limiting processed foods, taking diuretics, and avoiding alcohol (6).
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Reduced PMS Symptoms
It is normal for women to experience various symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and dizziness during this period. However, the intensity in some women is quite severe. Research shows that exercising can help reduce symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, mood swings, and cognitive dysfunction experienced by women suffering from PMS or dysmenorrhea (7).
Reduced Stress Levels
There is no limit to the number of things that can get on your nerves while you are on your period. Irritability is one of the many PMS symptoms, and sadly, even to the point of becoming stressed out.
You need to understand that if you allow these stress levels to increase, they may pile up and result in conditions like high blood pressure. MedlinePlus reveals that exercising can help slow down the release of stress hormones (3).
Besides improving your mood, reduced stress levels also reduce your chance of illness. Some of the illnesses that come from chronic stress and which are helped by exercise include heart disease, obesity, depression, and gastrointestinal problems (1).
How Long Should You Exercise?
The time you spend performing an exercise during your period varies, as several factors influence it. The first one is the type of exercise you perform. For example, some women prefer low or moderate-intensity aerobic exercises while others choose light strength training workouts.
Notice how we emphasize light workouts. This is because vigorous activities may increase your risk of injury, especially if you are experiencing increased sensations of fatigue and dizziness. So, for safety purposes, fitness experts suggest you stick to light exercises.
If you are performing light or moderate-intensity cardio workouts, fitness experts suggest you perform at least 150 minutes a week (7). It is up to you to decide how you will divide your week to hit this target.
Despite this long list of exercises, we advise you not to overdo it. Over-exercising increases your injury risk because you also may suffer from muscle soreness on top of the fatigue you are experiencing.
How To Design A Period Workout Plan?
Like any other workout plan, it would be best to talk to your trainer and ask them for help crafting such a routine. The problem with most ladies is that they feel they know themselves and have no problem designing their exercise routine.
Although this is not bad, some end up failiing to account for various things in their routines. For example, they may fail to include period cramp stretches to fight muscle tension and stiffness.
Similarly, they may include the right exercises but for a person in another fitness level. These are some of the reasons you should talk to your trainer for help designing a period workout plan.
Read More: Can Changing Your Diet Change Your Period? Myths Debunked
Tips For Exercising During Your Period
For many, exercising during their period can be uncomfortable or painful. However, it does not have to be that way. Here are some tips to help you ease into a physical activity during that time of the month:
Listening To Music
We suggest you listen to music when working out because it helps you relax and puts you in a better mood. You will most likely get done with your routine despite cramping when you listen to a good tracklist.
Taking Pain Relievers
The other thing you may want to do is take some pain relief medicine like ibuprofen before you start exercising. It will help ease menstrual pain and cramps, allowing you to perform the routine comfortably (7).
Drinking Enough Water
You may find it hard to exercise if you are experiencing bloating. The only way you will comfortably exercise with this PMS symptom is by reducing its intensity. You can do this by drinking enough water (7).
Wearing A Comfortable Tampon Or Pad
Exercising can also be straightforward when you wear a well-fitting tampon or pad.
We understand that you are likely working out at home. This is a good idea, especially when during your period you rarely feel like doing anything, let alone going anywhere. However, this does not mean you can disregard wearing the right gear when doing your home workouts.
It would help if you still put on fitting clothes, especially your bra. It should be supportive and well-fitting to hold your breasts in place and avoid any discomfort, especially when jumping.
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Enrolling Your Sibling Or Partner
You may struggle to exercise by yourself during your period, especially if you have severe PMS symptoms like back pain or cramping. For increased motivation, fitness experts suggest you choose someone who will hold you accountable instead of one that will give you the pass when you miss an exercise program for no particular reason.
Develop The Right Mindset
Some things are mental. You may convince yourself that you cannot finish a routine because of your cramping. Another woman elsewhere may develop the mindset that they can exercise during their period despite the cramping. Train your mind always to think positively.
The Bottom Line
Should you work out on your period? Certainly! Working out on your period helps ease menstrual pain and cramps, promote weight loss, improve your mood, reduce fatigue and stress levels. Talk to your doctor to help you determine the best exercise routine to perform when on your period.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 10 Health Problems Related to Stress That You Can Fix (2010, webmd.com)
- Does Exercise Help with PMS? (2020, webmd.com)
- Exercise and immunity (2020, medlineplus.gov)
- Exercise: SOS for Menstrual Cramps (2008, webmd.com)
- Menstrual Cramps (2020, webmd.com)
- Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) (2020, webmd.com)
- The effect of physical activity across the menstrual cycle on reproductive function (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)