The Best Exercises When You’re on Your Period

We’ve already established that you shouldn’t skip exercise when you have your period (check out the previous blog). Let’s now have a look at the types of exercises that are best for you during your menstruation.

Exercises to Do

Most experts suggest doing aerobic exercise, also known as cardiovascular exercise, when on your period. You’ve probably heard the word “aerobic” before, but you might be wondering what exactly does it mean?

Aerobic means “with oxygen”. Generally speaking, aerobic exercise refers to light-to-medium intensity exercise that can be performed over a longer period of time. During this exercise, you activate your aerobic metabolism and burn sugars (and sometimes also fats) to produce energy.

Aerobic exercises promote the circulation of oxygen through the blood and increase your heart rate and rate of breathing. In other words, these exercises make you out of breath, but they are not too exhausting so you can do them for, let’s say, 20 minutes or more.

Most often, aerobic exercises involve the use of leg muscles. For instance:

  • jogging,
  • brisk walking,
  • cycling,
  • hiking.

Other examples of aerobic exercises include:

  • swimming,
  • rowing,
  • playing tennis,
  • kickboxing,
  • cross country skiing,
  • aerobics classes,
  • dancing (this can be a Zumba class or just dancing at home as if nobody’s watching).

If all of the above feels a little bit too much for you when feeling tired and in pain, you can also consider a very light workout or a good stretch at home. A little walk with your pooch counts too.

Yoga is another good option. Include some breathing exercises and basic poses that will help you relax and get you through the week.

Exercises to Avoid

If you do aerobic exercises at a very high intensity, they become anaerobic. These involve short, intense bursts of activity that you can’t do for longer than a couple of minutes, for example, sprinting, high jumping, high-intensity interval training.  

An intense cardiovascular workout is usually not recommended when on your period. A study from the Syracuse University in the US even showed that high-intensity resistance exercise during the menstrual phase of your cycle can be associated with arterial stiffness, a risk factor for heart disease.[1] Some researchers are, therefore, starting to favour a low-intensity workout. However, if you feel very energetic and crave a good sweat, why not. Just listen to your body.

Additional Tips

1. Make sure you drink extra water when on your period. Bleeding can make you lose more fluid. If you start feeling light-headed during your workout, take your time and have a glass of water before you continue.

2. If you’re worried you’ll leak during your workout, use high absorbency underwear such as Bambody. Some athletes also recommend using menstrual discs that work well for runners, cyclists and swimmers.

3. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s good to exercise, but if you happen to miss a day or two, it’s no big deal.

Finally, don’t exercise just when you have your period symptoms! Find an exercise routine that you enjoy and make it a part of your life.

[1] Augustine, J. A., Nunemacher, K. N., & Heffernan, K. S. (2018). Menstrual phase and the vascular response to acute resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 118(5), 937–946.