Whether you are a professional athlete or just a regular woman who enjoys time at the gym or out running on the road in the open air, everyone experiences periods. Just because you are experiencing it, doesn’t mean you need to stop exercise during your flow. In fact, exercising is actually really beneficial to your body while you are having your period.
Regular exercise does wonders for the body as well as the mind. All you have to keep in mind is to back off when it comes to too much intensity and exercise shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Now, we all know all too well how uncomfortable it is to wear a pad or tampon during while exercising so we are going to look at the benefits of wearing a menstrual cup instead. But, before we do that, let’s take a peek at the benefits of exercise and best exercises to do while having period.
Benefits of Exercise While Having A Period
Now, if you are someone who is often found at the gym or exercising at least 5 times a week, stopping your regular exercise routine can actually do more harm to your general wellbeing than good. Apparently while you are having your period, estrogen as well as progesterone are at their lowest. This is the reason you will feel more tired and have less energy.
Even though you will experience more lethargy and have less energy, it doesn’t mean that by not exercising during your period you will have more energy or feel better. The following are all the benefits you will experience while exercising on your period:
1. More Strength and Power
A study was conducted and found that within the first 14 days of your period (day one being recognized as the first day you bleed) your level of female hormones are lowered which actually increases strength and power, believe it or not!
2. Attack Periods That Are Painful
Dysmenorrhea is the word for experiencing painful periods – and periods can be exceptionally painful and uncomfortable for a woman. What you may not know is that exercise, even exercise that is very moderate, such as light walking may help decrease the level of pain you are going through.
3. Increase Your Endorphins
Most people know that endorphins are the happy chemicals found inside your brain. Exercise does a magical thing by giving you a natural endorphin high – and who doesn’t need that, especially when experiencing your period. Not only do they give you a natural high, but endorphins actually help lower the amount of pain you are going through. If I were you, I would get on that treadmill now!
4. Elevate Your Mood
Exercise releases endorphins and elevates your mood and increases circulation. By exercising, your cramps won’t feel as painful, headaches won’t bombard you as much and back pain won’t be as severe.
5. Lower the Symptoms of PMS
PMS can be very severe. Everybody experiences it differently and some women’s mood swings can lead to aggressive and manic behavior. While experiencing PMS you will also have fatigue. In fact, let’s look at all the symptoms:
What are some common symptoms of PMS? (According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
Emotional symptoms include the following:
- Angry outbursts
- Crying spells
- Social withdrawal
- Poor concentration
- Increased nap taking
- Changes in sexual desire
Physical symptoms include the following:
- Thirst and appetite changes (food cravings)
- Breast tenderness
- Bloating and weight gain
- Swelling of the hands or feet
- Aches and pains
- Skin problems
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Abdominal pain
* Regular aerobic exercise may actually lessen this multitude of PMS symptoms.
Best Exercises to Do While Having A Period
The first days of your period are usually when the body feels most sensitive. Your body may feel a little uncomfortable as well – especially if bleeding is heavy. Therefore, it’s important not to be too rough on your body during this time and know that it’s better to be gentle on your body. After all, it is your temple!
Often it is best to do the exercise that your body is telling you to do. Your body knows what it wants and needs. It is also important to vary your workouts during this time. It is of absolute necessity to reduce the intensity of your workouts as you don’t want to hurt yourself. Here are exercises you should do while having your period:
1. Strength Training (Low-Volume) & Activities That Are Power-Based
Remember, as discussed above, you will have more strength during your period. Therefore, it is recommended to do low-volume strength training as well as power-based exercises. Keep in mind though, to do gentle power-based exercises as some power-based exercises require too much strength during your period. These power-based exercises are great, but only do the ones your body can actually handle during your period. It’s also good to mix strength work as well as cardio. It’s important not too push your body more than it can handle during this time.
2. Yoga, Stretching, Tai Chi & Pilates
Yoga, Stretching, Tai Chi and Pilates are all great exercises to help soothe the body during this time. It’s actually best to do these sort of exercises 2-3 days before your period. It will help relax the muscles of the body and may even reduce symptoms such as muscle pain and fatigue, cramping, ever-common breast tenderness and painful cramping. These are the best yoga exercises to do to relieve cramping:
- Child’s Pose
- Forward Fold
- Knees-To-Chest Pose
- Supine Twist
3. Light Walking/Cardio
When performing aerobic and cardiovascular exercise, lower the intensity and shorten the time you do it. Look into getting fresh air and taking calm, but brisk walks outside. Do light cardiovascular exercise and small amounts of aerobic exercise. There’s research that supports the idea that shows that your lungs actually perform at their best during the late stages of your period. So, keep exercise that really works your lungs for the last few days of your period.
If you don’t feel any discomfort at all during your period, it’s fine to carry on as normal with regards to exercise but to lighten up on intensity if any pain occurs. Of course, you also need to look at exercises to definitely avoid while having your period:
Exercises to Avoid While Menstruating
If it doesn’t feel right, lighten it up. Any exercise can be done during your period. That said, you shouldn’t lift very heavy weights during weight training and you shouldn’t over-exert yourself. That said, if you are someone that competes in “Ironwoman Triathlon” competitions and happen to get a period during this time, there is nothing you can do but do your best. Still if you are not in any athletic competition at the time, definitely lighten the load.
Recovering from Heavy Exercise During Your Period
If you have over exerted yourself with exercise during your period, the best thing to do is rest on a nice comfortable bed or couch with a blanket and place a hot water bottle over any area that may feel pain. Eat healthy fruits and vegetables and it’s really important to drink as much liquid – water and herbal teas – as possible.
All of this leads to a very important question:
What Period Protection Should I Wear While Exercising?
Of course, there is an array of products out there to wear when you are having your period and exercising at the same time. Tampons and pads can be highly uncomfortable though when swimming so you should look at other options such as menstrual cups. Menstrual cups can be used with all the following exercises and more:
When you’re swimming you definitely can’t wear a pad and you risk infection by wearing a tampon. A menstrual cup holds more than a tampon so it is easier to swim for longer and you don’t have to worry about any strings poking out.
“Instantly it was just more comfortable, and because of the capacity, in the past six months I haven’t had an issue even once.” Annabelle Winters
Annabelle Winters is a well-known runner and has this to say about menstrual cups:
Annabelle experienced very painful periods but by having a precise measure of flow – which a menstrual cup provides – helped Annabelle work with her doctor to create a plan of treatment for her menstrual cycle that was very painful.
A menstrual cup works great while biking. It’s an eco-friendly solution that is leak-free so you don’t have to worry about that when you’re out on the road. It’s comfortable and there is no need to worry about chafing.
Menstrual cups are really the answer for endurance athletes as they only need to be replaced every 6 to 12 hours. There is no need to stop during your marathon and replace anything. It’s also a great solution if you are out hiking for a weekend and don’t have access to toilets. Take it out, use fresh and clean water to rinse and clean it and insert it back in.
“A normal period consists of about 80cc’s of blood loss, and these (menstrual) cups can hold about 30cc’s at a time. That’s almost half of your entire period in one cup.” Maria Sophocles, MD
Maria Sophocles, MD is a board-certified gynecologist residing in Princeton, NJ. She says this:
So yes, you definitely can exercise during your period. It will make you feel happier, more comfortable and experience less pain, so don’t forget to insert your menstrual cup before you get going!