It can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise when you've got your period, so the idea that doing so might burn more calories is an appealing one. The scientific evidence doesn't seem to back this up, however. This doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise, as it will still burn more calories than staying inactive and may help with a few of the premenstrual symptoms some women suffer from, such as bloating.
While exercising during your period doesn't cause more weight loss, it can boost your mood and energy levels.
Exercising During Your Period
A woman's metabolism isn't stable, as her resting metabolic rate can vary throughout her menstrual cycle. You don't usually burn more calories when you exercise during your period, but you may burn more calories when you exercise during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, which is just before your period, according to a 2018 study published by Scientific Reports. During this phase, estrogen levels are low while testosterone levels are increased, which can boost results from weight training during your period.
A study published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences in 2014 noted that women's body weights don't significantly change throughout the menstrual cycle either, although there was a slight increase right before menstruation.
Exercise and Weight Loss
Even if you don't burn more calories when exercising on your period, it's still a good idea to keep exercising. You'll be burning more calories than if you don't exercise at all.
For the best weight-loss results, you'll need to do a mix of aerobic exercise and resistance training. The aerobic exercise burns a significant amount of calories, while the resistance training builds muscle, which increases your metabolism slightly.
Aim for 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise and two resistance-training sessions per week if you're trying to lose weight, recommends the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Moderate-intensity exercises can include walking briskly, swimming and even doing work around the house. Vigorous activities include singles tennis, jumping rope and jogging or running.
Benefits of Exercise During Period
While it might not burn tons of extra calories, there are other benefits of exercise during your period. Some women become bloated right before their periods begin and at the beginning of their period. Exercising helps to speed up the passage of gas through the digestive tract and minimizes bloating.
This can make it seem like you're losing weight as any extra water weight goes away, and the stomach flattens out a bit as the gas is removed. Perhaps this effect is responsible for the myth that you burn more calories during your period.
Read more: What Exercise is Good During Your Period?
Consider Your Diet
Increasing your fiber and protein intake may help slightly increase your metabolism, and thus the number of calories you burn. These take more energy for your body to digest and also help you feel full.
Fiber may make it so you absorb fewer calories and also slows down the emptying of your stomach so you don't get hungry as quickly. Make sure you don't cut calories too much, as this slows down your metabolism. Women should get at least 1,200 calories per day to minimize this risk.
- Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences: Body Weight Changes During the Menstrual Cycle Among University Students in Ahvaz, Iran
- Umea Universitet: Training and Hormones in Physically Active Women: With and Without Oral Contraceptive Use
- Scientific Reports: Menstrual Cycle Rhythmicity: Metabolic Patterns in Healthy Women
- Health.gov: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition