5 Reasons for Working Out On Your Period (and Where to Start)

by Feb 4, 2021

Working out might be the last thing you feel like doing when your monthly period arrives — but keeping up with your workouts might just help you feel better during your period. There are many benefits of working out while on your period, from alleviating the symptoms of PMS to easing menstrual cramps. Read on to learn more about working out on your period, including how to do it safely.

A woman working out

Can you exercise on your period?

There is no scientific reason why you shouldn’t exercise on your period. That being said, you should never force yourself to exercise when you aren’t feeling well. If you are in a lot of period pain, feeling especially fatigued, or having symptoms like nausea or stomach upset, it may be better to wait until you are feeling better to work out.

Even if you aren’t in a lot of discomfort, some cycle experts believe it’s better to engage in more restorative or low-intensity exercise during your monthly period. Again, there is no reason why you can’t go for high-intensity exercise if you’re feeling up to it — but chances are that lower intensity exercise will better match your mood and energy level during your period.

The Benefits of Working Out While On Your Period

Now that you know that you can exercise on your period, you might be wondering why you should. Does working out on your period help with all those uncomfortable symptoms? Exercise may not be the one-size-fits-all solution to all of your menstrual problems, but it can make you feel better in a number of ways.

1. Help reduce fatigue and depression

Exercise boosts your levels of certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that make you feel happy and energized. You may have heard of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a major role in depression and anxiety. Exercise can work as well as antidepressant drugs at boosting serotonin levels. 

2. Boost your energy

As Elle Woods attested in Legally Blonde, exercise also produces neurotransmitters called endorphins. These endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” you feel after you exercise, boosting your energy and improving your mood.

3. Help ease menstrual cramps

Period cramps are caused by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which stimulate the uterus to contract. These contractions help shed the uterine lining during menstruation, but they can also result in painful cramps. Thankfully, exercising during your period can help your body more quickly dispose of these prostaglandins, easing period pain.

4. Regulate your irregular periods

If you have irregular periods, they may be due to anovulatory cycles, or cycles where your ovaries do not properly release an egg. Regular exercise can help regulate irregular periods by promoting healthy ovulation. However, be sure not to exercise too vigorously, as excessive exercise is a leading cause of amenorrhea (a.k.a. missed periods). 

5. Keep your performance results

For people who work out often, it’s important to stay in shape so you can keep up with your exercise routine. Taking time off from your workouts once a month can disrupt your progress. Meanwhile, working out during your period can help you maintain your performance over time.

What Type of Exercise to Choose During Your Period

There are not any hard-and-fast rules that say you can’t choose a certain type of exercise during your period. Despite what you may have heard, it isn’t dangerous to work out while menstruating. However, certain types of exercise have greater benefits during your period than others. They may also help you feel more comfortable with working out on your period, since your energy level and mood may be lower during this time of the month.

Cardio

If you are feeling up to it, you can do any kind of cardio you want during your period. However, chances are that you may be feeling more fatigued than usual, especially in the first few days of your new cycle. If this is the case, going for a gentle stroll is a great way to fit in some cardio without placing undue stress on your body. Walking requires little energy or stamina, and it allows you to easily go at your own pace — making it a great exercise for your period.

Home Workouts

Again, there is no reason why you can’t go to the gym (or your favorite exercise class) during your period — but there are many reasons why you may not want to. Whether you’re worried about leakage or not being able to keep up with your peers, working out at home can increase your comfort level during your period. At home, you can easily take breaks, go change your pad, or do whatever you need to do to make your workout go smoothly. Chances are that you can find a free YouTube video to follow along with at home for almost any type of exercise you like to do, eliminating the need for a gym or workout class.

Yoga

Yoga, especially its more restorative forms, is a great way to work out on your period without depleting your energy reserves. Practicing a gentle yoga sequence can help you get moving despite discomfort. Certain poses are specially designed to relieve cramps, bloating, and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with your menstrual period. There are many videos covering yoga for your period that you can follow along with for free on YouTube. If you prefer to attend an in-person yoga class, yin yoga is an especially restorative form that’s perfect for practicing on your monthly period.

Pilates

Pilates is another wonderful exercise to try during your menstrual period. Unlike other types of toning exercises, Pilates is low-impact, meaning that it will not place undue strain on your body during this challenging time of the month. Like yoga, certain Pilates exercises are also thought to relieve period pain, bloating, and other uncomfortable symptoms. You can find specially designed Pilates sequences for your period on YouTube or Pinterest, or attend a low-impact Pilates class at your local studio.

What Risks to Avoid While Working Out On Your Period

The greatest risk of working out on your period is pushing yourself too hard. Many women feel pressured to keep up with their regular exercise routine while on their monthly period. As a result, they work out as hard as they normally would — and wind up feeling worse afterward. In order to get the benefits of exercise on your period, it’s important to go easy on yourself. Don’t deplete your energy stores by working out too hard, especially if you are experiencing difficult symptoms like fatigue or cramps.

Women who keep up with a vigorous exercise routine throughout their cycle run the special risk of developing a condition called exercise-induced amenorrhea. This hormonal condition leads menstrual periods to become irregular or stop altogether due to excessive exercise. It’s especially common to see exercise-induced amenorrhea in women who are elite athletes or women who exercise excessively due to eating disorders. If you are working out especially hard and find yourself developing newly irregular or missing periods, talk to your doctor to make sure you are not pushing yourself beyond your limits.

If you practice yoga, you may also have heard that you should not practice certain moves known as inversions during your menstrual period. The belief is that practicing inversions during your period encourages the backward flow of menstruation, known as retrograde menstruation. Previously, it was believed that retrograde menstruation might be a cause of endometriosis. There are mixed opinions on this matter in the yoga community, but medical experts tend to agree: practicing inversions probably won’t raise your risk of endometriosis. While 90% of women experience some degree of retrograde menstruation, only 1 in 10 go on to develop endometriosis.

Does timing matter?

Some cycle experts believe that working out during particular times of day at different points in the menstrual cycle has special benefits for women due to the natural fluctuations in female hormones throughout the day. However, the best thing you can do during this time of the month is to listen to your body. If you have more energy in the morning, then that might be a great time to squeeze in a Pilates session or brisk walk. Or, if you’re feeling like a yoga session could help you wind down before bed, then maybe you prefer to work out in the evening. Either way, it probably doesn’t matter what time of day you work out on your period, as long as you are not pushing your body past its limits. 

What Menstrual Product to Use On Your Period

Female athletes and exercise enthusiasts often debate over which period product is the best for your workout. After all, there are many factors to consider: for example, which product is the most comfortable for working out? Which product will cause the least amount of leakage during vigorous or intense exercise? 

Menstrual cups like Mira’s pair well with exercise. A well-fitting menstrual cup can stay comfortably in place for six to 12 hours, meaning that it won’t leak or need to be changed in the middle of your workout. Plus, they’re great for the planet, since they last up to 15 years without producing unnecessary waste.

Ultimately, however, there is no evidence to suggest that any single period product is safer than the other to use while working out — so choose the menstrual product that’s most comfortable for you!. Every woman is different, and we all have our preferences when it comes to the best period products for your workout.

✔️ Medically Reviewed by Dr Roohi Jeelani, MD, FACOG and Lauren Grimm, MA

roohi jeelaniDr Roohi Jeelani is Director of Research and Education at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Dr Jeelani earned her medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth, Dominica. She then completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, where she was awarded a Women’s Reproductive Health NIH K12 Research Grant. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr Jeelani has authored numerous articles and abstracts in peer-reviewed journals, and presented her research at national and international scientific meetings. A Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr Jeelani is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists.

Lauren Grimm is Research Coordinator at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Lauren earned her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago, where she also completed her masters in Medical Sciences. Lauren has worked alongside Dr. Jeelani for the last 3 years, authoring a number of abstracts and articles in peer-reviewed journals, and presented her research at national and international scientific conferences. Lauren will be continuing her education this fall at Rush University Medical College in Chicago, IL as an MD candidate.

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