“Should you work out on your period?”
This is a common question asked by women looking to understand the best ways to keep active during their period.
Whether or not you exercise during your period really comes to down to personal preference and the severity of your period symptoms.
It is generally thought that exercise and movement can help alleviate some of the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of your period.
Bloating, cramps, headache, back ache, heavy bleeding – you name it – these are all associated with premenstrual syndrome.
Believe it or not exercise can provide some relief, so what exactly are the best exercises to do on your period?
And more importantly which exercises should you avoid?
In this guide we’ll explore:
- Should you work out on your period?
- What are the stages of the menstrual cycle?
- Benefits of exercise during your period
- Exercise during your period Q&A
- Exercises to avoid during your period
- 6 best exercises to do on your period
Let’s get going!
Should you work out on your period?
As we mentioned earlier, whether or not you work out on your period boils down to your personal preferences and the severity of your period symptoms.
If you prefer to rest and stay at home during your period because it just feels too uncomfortable to do anything else, then you may want to skip your run or workout.
If you suffer with conditions like endometriosis or adenomyosis, which cause painful symptoms, then you may have no choice but to stay at home and rest.
Whatever your situation, it’s important you are aware of the benefits of exercise during your period so you can decide whether or not it’s the right thing for you.
There isn’t any scientific evidence that tells us that you shouldn’t exercise during your period – it is generally considered safe.
Related: Do you burn more calories on your period? Your common questions answered
What are the stages of the menstrual cycle?
Before we look at the benefits of exercise during your period, it’s worth taking a moment to look at the different stages of the menstrual cycle.
Understanding your menstrual cycle is important, especially when reviewing its impact on athletic performance, because it can impact your whole body – both physically and mentally.
Your period is one of many elements in your menstrual cycle, along with ovulation and pre-menstruation.
Various hormones are sent back and forth between your brain, ovaries and uterus throughout your menstrual cycle.
And it is these hormones that bring about changes in your body and that all too familiar rollercoaster of emotions that you may feel at different times of the month.
Here are the different stages of the menstrual cycle based on an average 28 day menstrual cycle.
Note: your period marks the start of your menstrual cycle.
Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends the day before your next period begins.
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Some studies have shown the impact of different stages of your menstrual cycle on your performance.
For example, during the start of your menstrual cycle when you’re on your period, hormone levels are at their lowest.
Therefore, you’re more likely to feel tired and fatigued during this window, which can have a detrimental impact on your performance.
Famously in an interview in 2015, British marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe highlighted the impact of the menstrual cycle on female athletic performance and called for more studies in this area.
Radcliffe said at the time: “Sport has not learned how to deal with periods”.
The key takeaway? Your period brings about many physical and emotional changes in your body.
That’s why it’s even more important to listen to your body and understand what it is telling you during this time.
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Benefits of exercise during your period
The good news is there are many benefits of exercising during your period.
Exercise during your period helps to:
- Decrease period symptoms
- Provide relief from painful and uncomfortable symptoms
- Boost your mood
- Decrease symptoms of heavy periods
Decrease period symptoms
We all know the full list of uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms that occur when you’re on your period.
From bloating to painful cramps, Aunty Flo is the gift that keeps on giving!
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, regular aerobic exercise can help to lessen period symptoms such as depression and fatigue.
They add that exercising regularly – not just during your period – is recommended to help keep some of these symptoms at bay.
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Provide relief from painful and uncomfortable symptoms
You may have heard of the term ‘runner’s high’.
This is when your body releases ‘feel good’ hormones during exercise, which can leave you feeling energised for the rest of the day.
These hormones (also known as endorphins) can also help to combat painful and uncomfortable period symptoms – acting like a natural painkiller.
Exercise can also help to provide some relief for some other period symptoms like back ache, cramps and headache.
Related: Running for mental health: 7 ways running can help you overcome anxiety
Boost your mood
Exercise helps to boost your mood.
It also helps to combat symptoms of anxiety and depression which can often be associated with premenstrual syndrome.
A regular exercise routine has been also been shown to improve confidence and self-esteem.
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Decrease symptoms of heavy periods
If you suffer with heavy and painful periods (also called dysmenorrhea), then exercise like light walking has been shown to alleviate these symptoms.
According to research from the University of Queensland, Australia, increased physical activity could reduce the chance of heavy menstrual periods in women who are overweight or obese.
The study found that women who were overweight or obese had higher odds of both irregular periods and heavy menstrual bleeding than women who were underweight or of normal weight.
Adding that among women who were obese, high levels of physical activity were associated with a 19% reduction in the odds of heavy menstrual bleeding.
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Exercise during your period Q&A
Q: Is it safe to work out during your period?
A: Yes. Exercise during your period is considered safe and there is no scientific reason not to exercise during your period.
Q: Should you work out on the first day of your period?
A: Whether or not you choose to work out on the first day of your period is down to personal preference and the severity of your symptoms.
Many women experience heavy bleeding or increased bleeding on the first day of their period, so choose not to exercise so as not to feel uncomfortable.
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Exercises to avoid during your period
While exercise during your period is beneficial, there are some exercises that you may want to avoid or skip during your period, especially if you suffer with painful symptoms or a heavy flow.
If you’re feeling tired or fatigued, you may want to reduce the amount of intense aerobic exercise such as long distance running.
Due to all the hormonal changes in your body, you may also find skill-based training much more difficult.
So you may want to avoid complex running drills or training that focuses on improving your balance and coordination during your period.
Instead of stopping your fitness routine all together, use your period as an opportunity to experiment with new or different exercises.
Only you know much you’re capable of during your period so listen to your body!
Related: How to get a runner’s body: Characteristics + 6 training tips
6 best exercises to do on your period
Now you know all about exercise during your period, here are some of the best exercises to do on your period.
Activities like light walking are great to do during your period.
Walking improves blood flow and circulation which can help to alleviate painful symptoms.
#2 Short bouts of aerobic exercise
During your period, female hormones like progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest which can make you feel tired and less energetic.
If you don’t want to give up running entirely, then focus on short bouts of aerobic exercise instead of prolonged periods of aerobic activity, like long distance running.
This way you can still get your running fix without pushing yourself too hard.
#3 Low volume strength training
Low volume strength training has been shown to provide some benefit during your period.
Due to all the changes in your body, you may want to avoid excessive weight training with high volume weights during your period.
#4 Strength and cardio focused training
Exercise that combines strength and cardio is recommended during your period as it can help to alleviate symptoms.
Bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges and weighted exercises are good exercises for runners.
The key is to focus on exercises increase your muscular endurance as well as your muscular strength.
According to a 2016 study, yoga can help to relieve painful period symptoms, decrease premenstrual symptoms and improve female health.
Yoga poses such as the supported bridge pose, forward fold and legs up the wall are recommended during your period.
As seen with yoga, Pilates can help to relieve painful symptoms.
Pilates is a whole body workout and improves blood flow which can help with period cramps, bloating and tension.
Exercises such as cat stretch, the mermaid and bridging are recommended during your period.