Should you do that abs workout during period pain? Can doing squats during periods lead to embarrassing leakage? Is jogging OK? While menstruating women are no longer considered fragile flowers, it's natural to wonder if some workouts are better than others during "that time."
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The most important thing to remember about syncing your cycle and your workout schedule is that there’s no “bad” home, outdoor or gym workout during periods.
Let Your Cycle Guide You
If you feel up to doing a particular exercise, you can rest assured that it won't have any health implications, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office on Women's Health. Your own cycle should be your guide when it comes to choosing which exercises to do.
If you don't get tired while doing an abs workout during your period, or other kinds of gym workouts during periods, fatigue probably won't be an issue. On the other hand, there's no reason to power through intense or long workouts that might be a bit more challenging for you during this time of the month because of heavy bleeding, pain or cramps, or fatigue.
Read more: Pelvic Pain After Exercising
Sometimes “Aunt Flo” Brings Benefits
For many women, getting their period coincides with more energy. That's because hormone levels, which plunge just prior to your period, begin to rise again.
In addition, your ability to tackle cardio for longer periods may rise as you move from PMS to period. Some research even indicates that female athletes performed better on endurance events during their periods than in other parts of their cycle. In fact, hormonal changes overall may give female athletes more of an advantage over their male counterparts, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Finally, you may even find that you're less prone to injury once you get your period, and researchers are still studying whether this is because that "PMS klutziness" vanishes, or because your joints are more elastic. But while you should never set out to be reckless during your workouts, it's good to know that you may actually be boasting a bit of "period protection."
When PMS Lingers
For some women, premenstrual cramps and tension don't stop with the onset of monthly bleeding. When that's the case, your PMS-like symptoms can get in the way of your usual fitness routine. Shifting to workouts geared to easing symptoms while staying fit may help.
Gentle cardio can be excellent for teens and adult women for relieving stress and fighting off fatigue. Try taking a stroll or a leisurely swim. Add a bit more intensity if your energy begins to lift from the workout.
Yoga is a good way to ease PMS-like symptoms such as stress before or during your period, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Yoga can also reduce the lower back pain and uterine cramps you may feel. Helpful poses include the cobra and the cat/cow movements.
Pool/Gym Workout During Periods
If you're normally a heavy bleeder, or just aren't sure which part of your cycle you're on, choosing a workout can be stressful. When you're bloated or need the backup of a maxi pad you may not want to be wearing your most revealing bike shorts or yoga pants. Or, you may fret that a tampon string will become visible in your bathing suit.
Don't let a misplaced sense of shame about normal body functions be what dictates your choice of exercise. Instead, raise your physical and emotional comfort levels by switching up your type of feminine protection and workout gear.
Read more: 10 Cool Facts About Periods
Consider using a menstrual cup for swimming, playing volleyball or other activities that tend to require briefs or short-shorts. "Period panties" as a primary or a backup method are less obvious in tight workout gear than traditional maxi pads. And, finally, never underestimate the comfort level of oversize workout sweats for those days when you're not quite sure what your period has in store.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Menstrual Cycle Problems"
- Office on Women's Health: "Physical Activity and Your Menstrual Cycle"
- American Council on Exercise: "Everything You Need to Know About Exercise and Fatigue"
- American Council on Exercise: "When It Comes to Knee Injuries, Are Women Really the Weaker Sex?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Staying Active at 'That Time of the Month'”
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital: "Yoga Exercises and Menstrual Cramps"
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.