5 Things to Know About Exercising During Your Period

You might want to reconsider avoiding exercise when your period arrives.

When it comes to working out, you might be ready to get some exercise at any time during your menstrual cycle—except when your period arrives. Your lack of motivation to do cardio or pilates during that time of the month could be because of the pain from period cramps or because your energy has been depleted and you just don't feel like going.

Still, if you tend to ditch the gym or avoid any exercise in general during your period, it actually might be a good idea to start working out for a few reasons. Here's what you need to know about exercising on your period.

It Helps With Relief from Period-Related Symptoms

It may seem like the last thing you want to do when you have your period, but working out can help relieve the symptoms that make your period painful or difficult to deal with in the first place. "The more active you are [overall] and more regular you are with your activity, the better your periods end up being—less cramping, less heavy flow," explained Stacy Sims, PhD, an exercise physiologist for USA Cycling Women's Track Endurance Program and co-founder of Osmo Nutrition.

When you sweat, water leaves the body, which can relieve uncomfortable belly bloat. Exercise also releases mood-boosting endorphins, which could at least take your mind off discomfort or pain. Furthermore, there was a reduction in premenstrual symptoms such as mood, pain, breast sensitivity, and constipation among those who exercised, according to a November 2019 Complementary Therapies in Medicine review.

It May Be the Best Time To Do HIIT

The best workout to do on your period is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), Sims said. "When your period starts, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop. And because of this, women can access carbohydrate/glycogen easily, as compared to high-estrogen time periods [when we] rely more on the slow breakdown of fat." In other words, this hormone shift makes fuel more accessible to your body, allowing you to push harder and get more out of short, fast-paced workouts than you would during other times of the month.

You May Stay Cooler

Your body temperature is actually lower during your period: As you approach the time for your period to arrive, levels of progesterone drop making your resting body temperature drop with it, according to a July 2020 Temperature article.

"This increases time to fatigue, and allows the body to store more heat without hitting the tipping point of central nervous system fatigue," Sims explained. Not to mention, during this time we can tolerate hotter and more humid climates, Sims added—which means that heated-environment exercises like hot yoga might not be too difficult to handle.

You Can Make It More Comfortable

If you know your period is coming up, you can be prepared for the pain before it even arrives. You can take an over-the-counter NSAID pain reliever, like naproxen or ibuprofen, 24 to 48 hours before your period is due. This way, you can sidestep your symptoms before they keep you home from the gym. If you forget, be sure to take them at the first twinge of pain.

Sometimes you may find it uncomfortable to exercise because you'll be wearing a tampon. Still, there's no shortage of products to try to make working out a more pleasant experience. You can opt for pads, liners, and menstrual cups and even specialized period-proof underwear.

It's Okay To Give Yourself a Break

You don't have to beat yourself up for not going all out when it comes to exercising on your period. Even just a gentle stroll counts as exercise, and it may help you feel better. "Your best bet is to do some light and easy movement that helps reduce inflammation via blood flow," Sims said. "If you really feel terrible, it's all right to take a day or two off."

However, if you're regularly sidelined by your periods, consider talking to your healthcare provider. Prescription remedies like the birth control pill might be helpful. Plus, it's a good idea to have major aches and super heavy periods investigated because those could signal a health problem like endometriosis.

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