Exercises to Do and Avoid While Working Out During Your Period

Less cramping, lighter periods, and better moods.

When it’s that time of the month and you’re dealing with symptoms like cramps, bloating and fatigue, hitting the gym might be the last thing you want to do. But squeezing in some exercise while you're on your period could actually make you feel better, both physically and mentally.   

From boosting your mood to easing cramps, staying active can make that time of the month a whole lot easier. But, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re exercising during your period, including ways to make activity more enjoyable and signs that your body needs to rest.  

A woman doing a yoga workout from her apartment

Jessie Casson / Getty Images

The Benefits of Working Out on Your Period

It might seem unpleasant at first, but exercising during your period can actually offer some impressive benefits. Here are some reasons why you might want to consider working out during your monthly flow.

Your Period Cramps May Go Away

One of the biggest potential upsides of a consistent fitness routine is less painful period cramps. A 2019 review, found that 45 to 60 minutes of any level of intensity exercise (that includes yoga and brisk walking) at least three times per week significantly reduced the intensity of menstrual cramps. 

Exercise increases levels of substances called beta-endorphins in your blood, which help block pain, like the kind you may experience during that time of the month. 

Your Other Menstrual Symptoms May Also Subside

If your monthly cycle includes symptoms like fatigue, low mood, and bloating, exercise could bring some much-needed relief.  

Exercise improves blood flow, decreases levels of aldosterone — a hormone that tells your body to retain salt and water — and increases the production of anti-inflammatory compounds. This combo is effective for alleviating period symptoms like bloating and tender breasts.

A 2018 study of 65 women found that those who participated in an 8-week program consisting of three 20-minute workout sessions per week experienced significant reductions in symptoms like bloating, nausea, and swollen breasts compared to a control group who didn’t exercise.

Your Mood Could Improve

When estrogen levels dip (after ovulation and again at the end of your period), you might feel sad, angry, anxious, or depressed. 

Fortunately, moving your body could help boost your mood by releasing feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine while promoting positive thoughts. This can help out both before and during your period.

A 2020 review of 17 studies concluded that exercise is effective for improving psychological symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) like anger and anxiety. PMS is the medical term for the combination of symptoms most people experience one to two weeks before their period.

Studies show that staying active can help balance out your mood during your period, too.

Your Flow Might be Lighter

Exercising consistently can help you maintain a healthy body weight and promote optimal hormonal balance, both of which are important for regulating your flow.

In a small 2021 study of 128 women who avoided workouts during their menstrual cycles reported longer periods, heavier flows, and increased fatigue and cramping than those who worked out during their period.

Exercises To Do

There’s no single “best way” to exercise during your period, but some activities have been shown to positively impact your cycle more than others. 

Here are a few exercises to try while on your period. 

Low-intensity Exercises

Exercises like yoga, stretching and tai chi (a combination of self-defense training and meditation) can be effective for alleviating painful period cramps, reducing depressive symptoms, and boosting energy.

Some yoga poses may also help reduce PMS symptoms. Child's pose can help relieve fatigue and bloating and cobra pose may help combat depression and low energy.

Cardio Workouts

Aerobic or “cardio” workouts are exercises that get your heart pumping. You can try out cardio workouts like jogging, dancing, and walking at any time during your cycle.

Studies show that aerobic activities like dancing and walking can help shorten the duration and decrease the severity of symptoms like bloating and cramps that can occur before and during your period.

Taking a brisk walk, going on a hike, or riding your bike can also help improve your mood and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression that often hit during this time of the month.

Resistance Training

If you enjoy lifting weights or using body-weight exercises to keep yourself strong, there’s no reason to skip these workouts when you’re on your period.

While strength training might not necessarily alleviate menstrual symptoms, weight-lifting techniques during the follicular phase (the first day of your period through ovulation when estrogen is highest) could improve your muscle mass and tone.

Exercises to Avoid

While there’s no reason to skip out on exercising during your period, you may want to modify your routine based on how you’re feeling. As an overall rule, don't push yourself to the max if your body is signaling it needs rest.

Pushing yourself too hard by participating in high-intensity workouts like long-distance running too often can negatively affect your cycle and may cause you to miss periods or even stop your period entirely. 

Everyone is different and you may find that you have more or less energy during certain phases of your cycle, which is caused by hormonal fluctuations. Keeping an exercise diary could help you understand how your energy levels change before, during, and after your period and make it easier for you to come up with a workout routine that’s best for you depending on where you are in your cycle. 

If your energy levels are at an all-time low, consider skipping higher-intensity workouts and opting for activities like walking or yoga instead.

How to Make Exercising During Your Period More Comfortable

Exercising on your period doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Here are several ways to set yourself up for an enjoyable workout:

  • Choose the right period products: From tampons to period underwear, you have options when it comes to period care products. Choose a product that helps you feel most comfortable and protected during your workout. 
  • Take a pain-reliever: If you want to exercise but are experiencing painful period symptoms like cramps, popping a pain-reliever like ibuprofen or taking a period-specific product like Midol, could help you have a more enjoyable workout.
  • Practice proper hygiene: If you feel self-conscious about working out because of period-related odor, make sure you're practicing proper hygiene like wearing clean underwear and workout clothes, cleansing your genitals after working out, and regularly changing tampons and other period products to stay healthy and fresh.  
  • Be prepared: If it’s that time of the month, stock your gym bag with your go-to period products like tampons or pads as well as some pain relievers like ibuprofen. Individually wrapped, unscented body wipes can come in handy for freshening up if you have post-workout plans.
  • Be kind to yourself: Although exercising during your period is healthy and can help improve common period-related symptoms, it’s A-ok to let yourself rest when you’re just not feeling a workout. Taking a relaxing bath or curling up with a cup of tea and a book might be just what your body needs to recharge.  

When to Visit a Healthcare Provider

It’s common for most people to experience period-related symptoms like cramping and bloating, but it’s not normal for period symptoms to regularly keep you from participating in activities you enjoy.

If your period symptoms are severe enough that they’re regularly interfering with your fitness routine, it might be time to visit your healthcare provider.

They can help rule out potential causes of severe period symptoms like endometriosis —an inflammatory gynecological disease that can cause symptoms like intense pelvic pain during menstruation.

Other conditions that may cause intense period symptoms like cramping, heavy bleeding, and bloating include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

If your period symptoms are significantly impacting your quality of life, your healthcare provider can determine the best way to help you feel better, which may include medications or other medical treatments. 

A Quick Review

Exercising while on your period can be an effective way to minimize common symptoms like cramps, bloating, and low mood.

You can participate in all types of exercise while on your period, from lower-intensity workouts like walking and yoga to more challenging activities like jogging. But it’s important to listen to your body and modify your workouts based on how you’re feeling. 

It’s totally normal to want to take a day off from your exercise routine during your flow, but if your period symptoms are interfering with your ability to stay active and healthy, your healthcare provider can help rule out potential causes and recommend treatments to help you feel better. 

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