If you are wondering whether exercise will decrease the length of your period, the short answer is yes. The long answer, however, depends on a number of factors. How regularly you work out, the type of exercise you get and the underlying cause of a heavy or extended menstrual phase all play a part in determining the extent to which your personal fitness habits shorten your period.
The Average Menstrual Cycle
Everyone experiences her period differently, but there are some averages by which to measure yours. According to WomensHealth.gov, the average menstrual phase lasts between three and five days. Following this phase, you enter the follicular phase. Menstruation will ease during this time as your uterine lining thickens and your ovarian follicles ripen. While you may experience some light menstrual flow at this time, it should abate quickly. Menorrhagia, which is a condition of abnormally heavy bleeding with many possible causes, may extend the length of your period.
How Exercise Affects Your Period
Exercise can have a significant impact on your menstrual cycle. By keeping fit and maintaining a regular exercise routine, you may shorten and lighten your menstrual flow. Exercise also decreases the excess water in your body, which reduces bloating during your period. Regular workouts also improve your circulation and increase blood flow, and proper stretching loosens the muscles in your lower abdomen, back and thighs. The release of endorphins also eases the pain you may feel from cramps.
Exercising During Your Period
There is some debate over whether to avoid certain exercises during your menstrual cycle, and clinical evidence is sparse on both sides. Yoga instructor John Friend writes that practicing inversions while menstruating can have long-term negative effects on the body's pranic flow. According to testimonials that he gathered from female yoga practitioners, just a few minutes of inverting can weaken or stop menstruation for several months. According to Friend, longer inversions result in longer-lasting effects. Other women, however, report no adverse affects of practicing yoga or remaining inverted during their periods.
Causes for Concern
The MayoClinic.com web page on Menorrhagia notes that an occasional heavy period is often nothing to worry about, but that consistent abnormal periods may be cause for concern. Consistent abnormal or extended flow during your menstrual cycle may be a side effect of a hormonal imbalance or ovary dysfunction. The presence of uterine fibroids or polyps can also lengthen your period, as can a complication during pregnancy, thyroid disorder, blood clotting disorders or cancer. So, if you consistently experience menstrual phases that seem longer than average, you should seek medical advice to determine the cause.
Is This an Emergency?
- WomensHealth.gov: Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle
- YogaJournal.com: Inversions During Menstruation
- MayoClinic.com: Menorrhagia (Heavy Menstrual Bleeding)
- JustMommies.com: Follicular Phase Explained
- "New York Times"; Personal Health; Effects of Exercise on Menstruation; Jane E. Brody; September 1982