We’ve all tried the “I’m on my period” excuse at least once trying to get out of gym class, and if you had a good gym teacher they probably told you that exercise would help you feel better. While on your menstrual cycle the last thing you probably feel like doing is being physically active, but that’s exactly what your body needs!
The painful cramps, bloating, low energy levels and melancholy moods are all things that can be improved with exercise. Studies show that women who exercise while during menstruation experience less cramps and adjust quicker to changes in hormonal levels leading to less mood changes, but what type of exercise should you do during your menstrual cycle?
Aerobic exercise such as swimming or going for a light jog can help to release the body’s endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals released by the brain that help relieve pain and give the feeling of euphoria. Just 20-30 minutes of light to moderate aerobic exercise can help decrease pain felt from cramps and improve your mood. Aerobic exercise also increases blood flow through the body this also helps in reducing menstrual cramps and headaches. Mild cramps respond best to aerobic exercise, always start off slow then gradually increase the intensity.
During ovulation (15-28 days before menstruation), the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are at their highest, and when menstruation begins these hormones drop drastically. During this time of low estrogen and progesterone levels your body’s pain tolerance increases, as does your strength. This is the perfect time to follow your regular strength training routine, or try something new without having the same effect of soreness post-workout.
Try programs that personalize workouts to you such as Blueprint Fitness offered by The Health Institute. Offering female-only classes with an emphasis on education and creating strength, not size, Blueprint Fitness offers a safe and comfortable environment to train. Avoid doing any exercises that put strain on your abdomen or back. These areas are generally more sensitive during menstruation.
Stretching based exercises such as yoga are helpful in increasing blooding flow and decreasing tension in the abdominal and uterine muscles. Yoga uses specific breathing and relaxation techniques that may help you focus on your emotions and may help improve your general mood. Poses such as the cat, cobra, or downward facing dog target the back, abdomen, and uterine muscles.
Tips to keep in mind for optimizing your exercise during menstruation:
• Use the right protection: Exercise may create more blood flow, therefore change your pad or tampon right before exercise
• Dress appropriately: Avoid wearing anything too tight or uncomfortable. Lean towards sweat pants and yoga pants and away from shorts and leggings. Choose darker colours in case of accidents.
• Stay hydrated: Keeping your fluid levels high is crucial during menstruation since you’re losing extra fluid. Take regular water breaks throughout your workout and continue afterwards.
• Know your limit: While the body does respond well to exercise while menstruating, during this time you may be more easily fatigued. Therefore keep workouts within a reasonable time limit and intensity level.