Exercising during your period: the dos and don’ts
Is it ok to exercise during your period? The answer is yes! But don’t forget the small print: you might not always feel like it, and that’s ok too.
Can you do exercise during your period?
Exercising can be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re on your period. But before you run that bath or reach for your favourite bar of chocolate, consider putting on your trainers.
Exercise has actually proven to be one of the most effective ways of relieving some of the symptoms that can accompany periods. According to a study from St. Mary’s University, 78 percent of women surveyed found that exercising reduced the symptoms relating to their menstrual cycle.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits of working out, exercising also improves blood circulation in the pelvic area which can ease period pains. It also causes your body to release endorphins, which will not only boost your overall mood, but can also improve the quality of your sleep.
Read on to find out what impact your hormones can have on your fitness and for our top tips to help you continue on with your exercise during your period.
How hormones impact your workout
It’s no secret that the same hormones which regulate our menstrual cycle, ie. oestrogen and progesterone, also affect sport performance. Tracking the menstrual cycle and adapting training and diet to fit it is now part of the coaching plan for most elite athletes.
In the latest BBC Women’s Sport Survey, 60% of the athletes said that their performance had been affected by their period, and that they had missed training or competitions because of it. The reasons varied from cramps and bloating, to lack of sanitary bins in training facilities and inappropriate clothing.
Many professional athletes have openly talked about the impact of their period on their sport performance. Chinese Olympic Swimmer Fu Yuanhui remarked that her race in the 2016 Rio Olympics was impacted because she felt tired and weak on her period. England footballer Jordan Nobbs called for more research into the links between injuries and periods in 2019, after damaging her knee during a match.
Changes in hormone levels have indeed shown to play a role in some sports injuries. Muscle pain, stiffness and fluctuating energy levels can also impact exercise during your period.
However, many professional athletes have reached their personal bests when on their period. Paula Radcliffe broke the world record in Chicago in 2002, after suffering period cramps throughout the last third of the race!
Choose a sport you love
There is no point trying to drag yourself to a circuit class if you absolutely hate it, especially when you are not feeling 100%! Choosing something you enjoy will increase the chances of you doing it again – and better still, enjoying it!
Low-intensity exercise, like swimming, has been shown to help relieve menstrual cramps. This is because it encourages your body to release its “natural painkillers”, endorphins. What’s more, the buoyancy of the water can soothe back pain while being easy on the joints.
And before you ask: yes, you can go swimming whilst wearing the Mooncup menstrual cup. You wear the Mooncup completely internally, so you don’t need to worry about a string hanging out. And, as the Mooncup also holds more than a tampon, you may be able to swim for longer.
Yoga is also a popular choice, particularly in the lead up to your period. Not only is it low-impact and relaxing, it can also help to reduce cramping, breast tenderness, muscular fatigue and soreness.
Just run with it
You may have heard the myth that you can’t run when you’re on your period. It’s total nonsense of course. Low or medium intensity exercise (defined as ‘hard breathing, but able to hold a conversation’) can actually help to reduce period pains.
Research also shows that aerobic exercise can help to reduce PMS symptoms. The “workout high” you feel after exercising is your body brimming with endorphins, which can reduce the PMS pain and boost your overall mood.
Beat the bloat
Did you know that you can gain between five and ten extra pounds of water before and during your period? Exercising during your period can help to reduce that bloated feeling. When you sweat, the excess water leaves the body, relieving bloat. But please note that drinking less water does not help against water retention – in fact you need to drink more (two litres a day, ideally) to flush everything out, especially if exercising.
Cutting down on salt and caffeine can help with the bloating too, and try to avoid the excess sugary foods, as they can really hit your mood and energy.
Choose the most comfortable period product
One of the most common reasons for not exercising on your period is the fear of leaking or discomfort. Tampons and pads can sometimes cause chafing and rubbing too. This is a particular problem if you like long distance running, cycling or rowing. Many cyclists and runners swear by their Mooncup® exactly for this reason.
The soft and squishy Mooncup is worn internally and once it’s in place, you shouldn’t even feel it. The fact that the Mooncup also holds three times as much as a regular tampon can also make it easier to focus on your exercise.
It’s a good idea to empty your Mooncup before a workout and get used to using the Mooncup before you hit the circuit class or the pool!
Listen to your body
We’re constantly being told to work towards a ‘better you’. Sometimes that means to stop, rest and recover, and your period can be that cue to hit pause and reset.
While we often tend to focus on our monthly bleed, our period is actually part of a monthly cycle which consists of four phases. All four phases come with their own powers and hormonal characteristics which impact your energy levels. Maisie Hill named the bleeding phase “Winter”, while Lucy Peach calls it the “Dream“ phase, but the idea is the same: it’s the time for hibernation and self-love.
If you’re not a professional athlete, the best thing for you may be to rest and conserve your energy. Grab that hot water bottle and a bar of chocolate and retreat to your bedroom. Your body is already working hard shedding the lining of your uterus. Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel like running a marathon!
Find out more about the Mooncup menstrual cup and buy yours here.
If you have any questions about the Mooncup, please feel free to contact us here.
Read more on the Mooncup® blog:
Can you go swimming on your period?
How to hack your cycle and own your period superpower
Veganuary 2021: how to have a vegan period?