There are so many opinions when it comes down to exercise and periods. So should I exercise on my period? YES. WUKA experts discuss the importance of exercise.
Should You Exercise on Your Period?
We get it. When you're on your period and your cramps have you doubled over, your head is aching and you’re feeling bloated… possibly the last thing you want to do is hop off the couch and hit the gym. But could exercise potentially help, or even be beneficial during your period?
According to the Largest Global Study of Active Women by FitRWoman and Strava, 78% of women say that exercise reduces symptoms related to their menstrual cycle, noting that moderate intensity exercise was most effective at reducing symptoms.
The question 'should I exercise on my period?’ gets floated around a lot on Google, and between friends all the time. With so much conflicting information out there, we wanted to remind you that if you don't feel like exercising, you absolutely do not have to.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. YOU COME FIRST. ALWAYS.
That said, if you do choose to Wake Up and Kick Ass at the gym, what are the benefits it could bring you?
Benefits of exercising on your period
There are many physical and emotional benefits that can be attributed to exercise at any time during your cycle, and these benefits can be felt during your period too, and probably when you most need to feel them!
PMS symptoms can be hard. Fatigue, weakness, lethargy, cramps, bloating, mood swings, irritability… if you suffer from any or all of the above, we commend you for even considering hitting the gym. And if you do make it to that spin class, or even just out on a gentle walk you’ll probably already know that your PMS symptoms more than likely eased somewhat as a result.
Of course, we’re all different, but lots of women report a reduction in PMS symptoms thanks to gentle exercise during their period, and its thought that this is down to the ‘feel good’ chemicals that are released when we move.
Endorphins are released as the body’s natural response to getting the blood pumping, and they boost serotonin levels which in turn help to lift the mood and ease stress. Endorphins can also reduce pain too, so while going for that run might seem counterintuitive, it might just be the answer to those cramps that just won’t ease.
Gain strength and power
Working out, and particularly strength training, is great for improving your physical fitness and overall health. Building muscle is essential, especially as we age, to ensure good bone health and longevity. In fact, once we hit our 30s, our muscle mass begins to naturally decrease, meaning its easier to gain fat and potentially knocking years off our lifespan too.
And if all of that isn’t enough of a motivator, strength training helps you to gain power in the gym. You CAN be a warrior, stronger fitter and more powerful than ever. Your period does NOT need hold you back!
We’ve already talked about endorphins and the role they play in easing PMS symptoms, but we thought it was worth mentioning again. Exercise, whether its a gentle yoga flow or a intense sprint, can work wonders for your emotional wellbeing.
If you know that your mood dips during your period, take some time out to incorporate an activity that you know will lift your spirits. You don’t need to be smashing personal records every time you work out; sometimes its nice just to do what you enjoy to get the heart beating. Dance, walk, swim, hula-hoop- if you know it makes you smile, do it.
Combat period pains
Essentially acting as messengers, endorphins are created in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, and they attach to your brain’s reward centre, the opioid receptors. Beta-endorphins are released to cope with stress and pain, and studies show that they’re actually more effective than morphine when it comes to pain relief. These are the endorphins that are released when we exercise; they literally block pain signals being sent to the brain.
So yes, exercise can combat period pain. In fact any activity that we find pleasurable can release these endorphins, and since sex is not only pleasurable but a physical activity too, it could also be an option when cramps are getting you down!
Best exercise to do on your period
Knowing the benefits of exercise on your period, another question that gets asked a lot is what activities are best to do. The answer really depends on you. There’s no point dragging yourself out for a run if you know you’re going to hate it, so stick to the activities you know you enjoy and that won’t be a chore.
Regular exercise is key to maintain good health, so find a sport of activity you enjoy so you know you’ll stick with it and can build a sustainable routine. Here are some great activities to try:
Walking or light cardio
Cardiovascular exercise is fantastic for getting the blood pumping, the heart beating and oxygen flowing. It’s low impact, so great for any fitness level, and easily accessible. Just put a pair of shoes on and head out into the fresh air. Bliss!
Gone are the days where the weight room is dominated by men only. More women are lifting now, and the results are more than worth it. Building muscles helps with body recomposition, meaning you drop fat and gain strength, improving bone health and boosting overall physical health.
This 2012 study looked into the many benefits of strength training and found that its has the power to enhance ‘several important aspects of physical and mental health’. The study concluded that strength training helps with:
- Combatting age-related loss of muscle mass
- Boosting resting metabolism
- Increasing lean mass and metabolic rate
- Decreasing fat mass
- Reducing back pain
- Increasing walking speed
- Improving glucose and insulin responses (recommended for type 2 diabetes)
- Reducing blood pressure
- Enhancing vascular function
- Increasing bone density
- Decreasing symptoms of depression
- Increasing self esteem
- Improving cognitive capabilities
- Reversing ageing factors in skeletal muscle
Yoga and pilates
Yoga is a wonderfully gentle, meditative exercise to do on your period, and for many it provides the time and space to truly connect with the body, and disconnect from media for a while. Pilates can provide these same benefits too, plus you’re working on your core and pelvic floor strength at the same time, improving overall strength and fitness.
Exercises to avoid
If you have a medical condition that prevents you from carrying out certain types of exercise, or you experience pain or discomfort when working out, don’t ignore it. Speak to a trainer, doctor, or physiotherapist about the exercises that are suitable for you.
Your period shouldn’t hold you back from any exercise, but listen to your body. Do what makes you feel good, not what you think you should be doing.
Training with your cycle
A rather surprising finding of the Fitr Woman and Strada report was that 72% of women said they’d never had any education or information on exercise and their menstrual cycle. But did you know that along with exercise being hugely beneficial to women, where you are in your cycle can also determine your body’s response to it?
Your menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones, and these hormones can take us through an array of emotions and physical feelings throughout the month. The key to training with your cycle is to work with your body, not against it. That means understanding the phases of your cycle, and what each stage means for your athletic performance.
The follicular phase and athletic performance
During the follicular phase, the first two weeks of your cycle, oestrogen is rising. You’re likely to feel quite strong and energetic, especially once your period has finished and you move towards the middle of your cycle.
This is a good time to really go for it at the gym. Why not smash that PB or set some new goals? Take advantage of this energy boost and the powerful endorphins that your body is releasing. Go for it!
The luteal phase and athletic performance
The second half of your cycle can look very different to the first. The luteal phase sees a rise in progesterone alongside a drop in oestrogen, and this can leave you feeling less energetic and possibly weaker. Now is the time to drop the intensity and listen to your body if its asking to rest. Don’t try to do too much. Gentle exercise is best, and knowing when to cut it short can really make a difference.
Bottom Line on exercising during Your period
Exercise at any time during your cycle is hugely beneficial- the report by Fitr Woman and Strada actually found that women who exercise and eat a healthy diet are ‘less likely to miss work due to menstrual cycle symptoms’- and other studies back this up.
This study looked at the effects of regular exercise and concluded that ‘three months of regular aerobic exercise effectively reduces the severity of PMS symptoms’, while this study looked specifically at swimming and its effects on PMS. It too found there were effects on both physical and emotional symptoms.
Working with your body and understanding your cycle can really help to maintain physical and emotional health, combat period pain and PMS symptoms and will leave you more than ready to wake up and kick ass!
Shop the WUKA Perform Collection
Our Perform collection was designed so that your period never needs to hold you back from achieving your personal best! We use lightweight, active fabric and constructions to ensure a sleek and comfortable fit, 100% leak-proof and 100% squat proof.
Which exercise is best during your period?
The type of exercise that’s best for you is the one that you enjoy the most. It might be a gentle walk, or a more intense spin class. The point is, if you enjoy it you’re more likely to stick with it and see the benefits of a constant workout routine.
During your period, fluctuating hormones can make some exercises more appealing than others, so listen to your body and let it guide you. You might want to take it a little easier during the luteal phase, where oestrogen levels are dropping and your energy might be low. The first half of your cycle tends to bring more energy to most, so this is the time for more intense workouts.
Which exercises should be avoided during your period?
There are no exercises that cannot be performed, unless your doctor has specifically ruled them out for you. Yes, even swimming is great for during your period- and in fact, swimming can be great for easing period cramps. Just make sure you remember to wear your WUKA period swim suit!
Can exercise make your period heavier?
Sometimes movement can encourage period blood to flow from the vagina, but it’s all down to gravity, and not a sign that your period has become heavier.
When you stop, or lie down, the blood cannot flow as easily so it might seem like your period is lighter. As long as you have a good pair of period pants suitable for your flow, you will be fine!
Can I do squats on my period?
Yes! Strength training is a great exercise to do on your period and an awesome way to encourage muscle growth and longterm health.