There are no exercises that you must avoid when menstruating. Some people may benefit from a few workout adjustments based on their symptoms. Others can stick to their regular routine.
If you're concerned about exercising during your period, you're not alone.
A lot of people skip their cardio and weight training when menstruating. After all, when you're already cramping, it's easy to think that hitting it hard in the gym will just fan the flames.
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But exercise during periods can actually help you feel better. Here's are some of the best workouts for period relief — and how you might need to adjust your workouts while menstruating
3 Best Workouts to Try During Your Period
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, aerobic exercise can reduce period-related symptoms. Low- to moderate-intensity exercise can help alleviate cramps and reduce uncomfortable bloating.
Cardio also speeds up blood circulation, which may help relieve headaches associated with menstruation. And the release of feel-good endorphins can boost your mood.
Get started with lower-intensity cardio workouts such as walking or light jogging on the treadmill and swimming (yes, you can go swimming on your period). Once you see how your body responds, you may feel up to pushing the pace. If not, that's cool, too.
2. Strength Training
Lifting weights during periods is safe to do as long as you pay attention to your body, which you should always do anyway, right? Make sure to work out all major muscle groups, including your arms, legs, back, core and glutes.
It might help to use lighter weights or take longer rest breaks, according to a February 2021 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research review. It found that, during menstruation, hormone changes increase the risk of excessive muscle damage. (FYI, people are at their strongest between ovulation and their period.)
If you start to feel serious fatigue, weakness or abnormal discomfort, stop what you're doing and consider modifying the lift.
Yoga is just as good, if not better at easing period symptoms than aerobic exercise, according to a small October 2019 Journal of Education and Health Promotion study.
Yoga focuses on breathing and relaxation techniques that can alleviate stress and tension, increase the flow of blood and oxygen around the body and settle down the nervous system. It also lets you focus on your emotions, and may help you better deal with and communicate your feelings and needs.
Traditionally, yoga instructors have recommended avoiding inverted yoga poses during menstruation. But it's OK to do headstands and other upside-down poses, as Iong as they feel good to you. Just pay attention to how your body reacts.
Severe Period Symptoms? Here's How to Adjust Your Exercise Routine
According to the Office on Women's Health, there are no exercises that you have to avoid during your period. That said, some people with periods do experience severe discomfort that may make certain workouts difficult. If that's you, modify or avoid exercises that make symptoms worse.
For example, if you're having pelvic pain, you may have discomfort while doing squats during periods. If that happens, you can always modify the movement or try a different leg exercise. Crunches during periods can also cause discomfort if you're experiencing severe cramps.
Other workouts to avoid during periods include those that require intense or prolonged bouts of activity. If you find that you're more tired than normal, you might want to cut back on certain forms of cardio such as high-intensity interval training, per the Office on Women's Health.
Also, reducing the amount of time you spend exercising might be helpful if you experience fatigue. Some people also deal with heavy menstrual bleeding, which can make high-intensity exercise uncomfortable.
Listen to your body. If exercise seems to be too much for you, it's OK to stay home and rest. According to the Office on Women's Health, excessive exercise and weight loss can result in irregular or skipped periods as well as other symptoms similar to PMS, such as moodiness, fatigue, achy muscles, insomnia and loss of appetite.
Incorporate one or two days of rest in your workout plan to allow your body plenty of time to recover from exercise. If you experience irregular periods or other uncomfortable or severe menstruation symptoms, make an appointment to see your gynecologist. They may be able to pinpoint the cause of your menstruation problems.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Premenstrual Syndrome
- Office on Women's Health: Physical Activity and Your Menstrual Cycle
- PlosOne: The Effects of Menstrual Cycle on Physical Performance in Female Soccer Players
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage During the Menstrual Cycle: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"