Exercise & Your Menstrual Cycle

If you’re someone who menstruates, you’ve likely had days where your cycle has impacted your workout plans, or had questions about how and when you should exercise during your period.

While the most common question tends to focus on whether or not you should be working out during your period, research shows there’s more to it than that! Hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle can have a range of effects on energy levels and exercise performance, and particular forms of exercise may be better suited to each stage of your cycle.

When scheduling your workouts, it’s worth taking into account where you are in your cycle and how this might affect your training. The average menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days and has four main phases – menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.

While the length of each phase and the full cycle can vary from person to person, this guide can help you better understand your body and choose different styles of training for every stage of your cycle — and could even help boost your performance.

Exercising During Your Period

It’s that time of the month — the menstrual phase. This is when you’re menstruating, or when you’re actually on your period. But what is actually happening during this time, and how can you best support your body?

During this phase, your uterus is shedding the lining it has built up throughout the month. The first day of your period is considered day one of your cycle, and this phase typically lasts between three and seven days. At the beginning of your period, your progesterone and oestrogen levels will be at their lowest, which along with the loss of blood may cause you to feel more tired than normal. As your period goes on, these hormone levels will gradually increase.

If you experience fatigue during the early days of your period, you may not feel like doing much intense exercise. You may want to reschedule your workouts or do some gentle movement instead.

Exercising during your period has many positive impacts on the body. Each woman’s ability to work out and her response to it are different and hence the workout routine you must adhere to can vary from person to person.

Benefits Of Working Out During Periods

  • Less pain from cramps: A study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion found people who exercised for 30 minutes, 3 days per week, had less menstrual pain than those who didn’t exercise. It’s important to remember that the benefits are great if you exercise regularly, not just during the days that you have symptoms.
  • Improved mood: When estrogen levels get lower, you might feel sad, angry, anxious, or depressed. The good news is, exercise releases feel-good endorphins that help boost your mood. Regular exercise can help both before and during your period, when “mood swings” are generally most prevalent.
  • Reduced fatigue: The hormonal changes we go through during our period can make us feel really tired. According to the Office on Women’s Health, physical activity can boost energy levels instead of lowering them during the menstruation cycle.

What Are The Best Ways Of Working Out During Periods?

Depending upon how your body responds to periods, suitable workout routines can vary from high-intensity training (hit) like running, cycling and heavy lifting to low intensity training (lit) like brisk walking and step aerobics.

Most women opt for light exercises during the first few days of the cycle and then gradually increase intensity, which is advisable for those who are not in the habit of regularly working out. Athletes and sportswomen who train all around the year take to high-intensity workouts that focus on core strengthening and cardio boost.

What Exercises Should Be Avoided During Periods?

The only kind of workout that should be avoided during this time is yoga that involves any ‘inverted pose’ that requires a woman to perform partial or complete headstands. These poses negatively impact blood flow and can cause painful heavy bleeding.

Apart from that, when it comes to exercising during periods, the guideline is simple – if you can handle it, you should go ahead and do it.