For many reasons, a lot of people skip their workouts during this time of the month. But there’s really no reason to skip out on exercise just because you have your period. Working out can actually help relieve menstrual pain. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, regular exercise can help alleviate PMS symptoms—including those terrible cramps—and reduce the severity of your monthly visitor.
Most people get cramps during their periods at some point in their lives. They usually feel like throbbing pains in your lower belly. They can start a couple of days before your period comes, and sometimes continue throughout your period. Cramps are usually worse during the first few days of your period when your flow is the heaviest.
You may feel like you have less energy than normal during the first couple of menstrual days, when bleeding and cramping are usually heavier. High-intensity exercises like running may not be appropriate. Instead, yoga and breathing exercises can be a good way to help reduce the pain caused by cramping. Yoga also reduces stress, improves flexibility, and strengthens muscles.
What helps with cramps?
Here are a some things that can help ease cramps:
- Over-the-counter pain medicine
- Heating pads
- Taking a hot bath.
- Hormonal birth control (like the pill, patch, ring, implant, and hormonal IUD).
- Acupuncture and acupressure.
- Certain vitamins, essential oils, and herbs.
Gentle stretching of the lower back or abdominal muscles might spell relief. You’re providing a different sensory input to that area, so it might help to alleviate some of the sensation of the cramping. Lower back PT exercises include knee-to-chest exercises and lower-trunk rotation. Progressive muscle release—starting at your head or feet and tensing, then relaxing different muscle groups— can help with cramps.
5 Exercises to Relieve Period Cramps
Running and Cardio
Aerobic activity may be the best combatant to painful menstrual cramps (1). Running and cardio not only increase blood flow but also release beta-endorphins which leave you feeling good and can work to relieve pain and improve your mood during your period. A brisk morning walk or bike ride through the park are great activities as fresh air and relaxation can also work to improve your well-being.
Cobra, Cat, Cow and Fish
These yoga poses are a few good exercises for you to try. They may help you cope with heavy cramping, and are best for your heavier menstrual days. Stretches are best done when the body is warm (as it is after a bath or shower). Each stretch should be held for 30 to 60 seconds. Please do not push to the point of pain or discomfort.
Stretching it is great for unyielding pain. When you stretch, you help lengthen your muscles, which reduces nasty cramps. Stretching is also known to alleviate stress—something that makes menstrual pain worse. For menstrual cramps and lower back pain, the standing forward bend is recommended. For loosening up hips, try a pigeon pose or figure four stretch.
Light Weight Lifting
Lifting weights can release endorphins that decrease feelings of pain and discomfort (1). It also increases blood flow to the muscles and helps alleviate pain associated with your menstrual cycle. Pay attention to how your body is responding to the exercise and go at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
Research and experience shows that low impact exercise like Pilates has a profoundly positive impact on overall health and wellbeing, as well as period pain. This is because one of your main focuses is on the breath. Pilates improves blood flow, specifically to the pelvic floor muscles. By working the pelvic floor muscles you’ll improve blood flow, which can help to increase relaxation of these muscles.
Exercises to avoid on your period
Just like certain activities may be more appropriate to participate in during your period, there are also some exercises you may want to avoid. If you’re feeling unusually tired, you may want to cut back on intense cardiovascular or endurance-type training. It’s also ideal to eliminate skill and precision training during these few days.
Regular exercise is beneficial for your body and your mind. There’s no scientific reason you should skip out on your workouts during your period. In fact, there’s evidence that exercise can be helpful during this time. Continue with exercise, but back off on the intensity, especially if you’re feeling fatigued. Vary your workouts, take extra time to recover, and honor what you’re capable of.