Cramping and pain are common occurrences that accompany your menstrual cycle. They are caused by uterine contractions, which hormones stimulate to move blood from your uterus. This can cause pain in the abdominal and lower back regions. You also may experience nausea or lightheadedness. While you may not always feel like working out when you experience menstrual pain, exercise can help relieve cramping.
Yoga emphasizes deep breathing, relaxation and movements that help you relieve menstrual cramping and pain. Perform gentle yoga poses like child's pose, but avoid inversions while on your period. The bridge pose, where you lie on your back and place your legs against a wall, feeling a stretch in your lower back, helps relieve menstrual cramps and pain. Simple meditation -- crossing your legs over each other and breathing deeply -- can help you relieve tension following a yoga session.
Swimming is a low-impact exercise that does not place extra strain on your body. This cardiovascular activity elevates your heart rate and causes you to release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that can help relieve pain and muscle aches. If the water is warm, the temperature also can help soothe tense muscles. Even if you do not swim, you can walk in the shallow end of a pool.
If you do not feel well enough to engage in cardiovascular exercise, stretching exercises can help relieve tension in your muscles and can be performed several times throughout the day. Examples of stretching exercises include lower trunk rotations. To begin, lie on your back with your arms extended. Drop your knees to your right side and hold this position for 20 seconds. Lift the knees up in the air, with your lower legs parallel to the floor, holding this position for 20 seconds. Lower your legs to your left side for 20 seconds, then lift up to return to the middle position. Repeat three times on each side. Stretch your buttocks and hips by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your right leg to place the outside of your right foot on your left knee. Pull the leg in toward your chest, placing your hands behind your knee. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then lower the foot to the starting position. Repeat by crossing the left foot over your right knee.
Low-Impact Cardiovascular Exercise
Low-impact exercises help relieve pain and tension from menstrual cramping without placing strain on your body that causes discomfort. Examples include walking and using an elliptical exercise machine. Try breaking your exercise routine into smaller intervals -- three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions can be effective.