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Can I Exercise When on My Period?

During my school days, I’d make sure I sat the PE class out once a month. “It’s my period,” was all I had to say, and the teacher duly noted it in her book to make sure it didn’t happen more often than monthly. The truth is, I hated PE (and wasn’t too keen on the teacher either), so that was my perfect little excuse to skip the class.

I—and probably many other women and girls around the world—used my period as a pretext for not exercising. Maybe my teacher should have called us out. The truth is, working out during your period isn’t a bad idea at all. Here’s why:

The Benefits of Exercising During Your Period

It’s not uncommon to feel tired during that time of the month. That’s due to estrogen and progesterone being at their lowest. However, the lethargy isn’t going to go away if you sit on the sofa all day. In fact, a short workout (at an appropriate tempo) can make you feel more energetic.

Some of the benefits of exercising include:

  • Reduces PMS Symptoms – The website of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists argues that: “regular aerobic exercise lessens PMS symptoms. It may reduce fatigue and depression.” They advise regular exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, running and cycling.

 

  • Reduces Cramps and Bloating – When you exercise, you increase the circulation and bring more oxygen to the heart, lungs and the muscles. Therefore, the uterus doesn’t get so much blood. This can help reduce menstrual cramps, as well as help with headaches and back pain. In fact, experts see exercise as one of the best interventions for painful periods.[1]

 

  • Boosts Endorphins – Have you ever experienced the runner’s “high”? The euphoric state is brought on by the increase in endorphins, dubbed the happiness hormones. Endorphins elevate your mood and make you feel better. They reduce anxiety and depression. They also act as natural painkillers, so can help you alleviate some of the discomfort connected with your period.

 

 

  • Helps you Make Gains in Strength and Power – This one is perhaps the most surprising! An article published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reports on the findings of a study that showed exercising in the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle (day 1 being the first day of your period) can be more beneficial than exercising in the last two weeks of the cycle.[2] That’s probably due to the low levels of female sex hormones at the start of the cycle. Therefore, if you exercise when on your period, you might actually gain more muscle.

 

Are There Any Cons to Exercising During Your Period?

The short answer would probably be no. In some cases, however, exercise can make your pain worse. For instance, if you have uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths in your uterus), the pain can become more severe when you work out. If that happens, you might want to consider seeing a doctor to get it checked.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about which exercises are best for you when you are on your period and which ones you should avoid. So, stay tuned!

[1] Amanda J, D. (2008). Exercise and primary dysmenorrhoea: A comprehensive and critical review of the literature. Sports Medicine, 38(8), 659-670

[2] Wikström-Frisén, L., Henriksson-Larsén, K., & Boraxbekk, C.-J. (2017). Effects on power, strength and lean body mass of menstrual/oral contraceptive cycle based resistance training. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 57(1–2), 43–52.

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