Pain, fatigue, headaches, stomach upset… Many women find their bodies are more sensitive and prone to fatigue when they are menstruating as blood flow is often accompanied by many unpleasant side effects. So, should we reduce or stop engaging in physical activities during menstruation? The answer is no. Still, there are some nuances worth considering.
If your period is not very painful and abundant, there is no reason to stop or reduce sports activity. On the contrary, exercise usually has a beneficial effect. However, if you are not a serious athlete under pressure to perform, then we advise reducing the intensity of your activities during menstruation.
Combining moderate activity with a healthy lifestyle—5 fruits and vegetables per day and at least 7 hours of sleep—can go a long way towards reducing the unpleasant side effects of menstruation. Moderate activity is when your breathing quickens but you are not out of breath, you develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity, and you can carry on a conversation, but you can't sing.
It turns out that the exercise has diverse beneficial effects on the body:
Although engaging in any sport you enjoy is a good thing, some physical activities are particularly helpful for alleviating menstrual symptoms.
Cardio activities. Any activity that elevates your heart rate and challenges your heart and lungs will improve blood circulation, elevate your mood, and balance your hormones. Maintain a moderate pace and choose an activity that really makes you feel good. There is a huge variety of beneficial cardio activities. If your area is not suitable for walking and hiking, try dancing, boxing, jumping rope, or jumping on a trampoline! Rowing, climbing stairs, playing frisbee or badminton, or other running games can also provide terrific cardio exercise. Or do something practical, like take the dog for a walk or mow the lawn!
Biking. Biking outdoors is great exercise, but studies have shown that women are more likely to injure themselves when they are on their periods due to fatigue and lack of attention. One way to avoid possible accidents is to ride an indoor or stationary bike. The movement involved in cycling increases the heart rate and oxygenates the body without stressing muscles or joints, as long as you don’t overdo it by pedalling too hard and for too long.
Yoga and stretching. When practicing yoga during menstruation, certain positions are particularly beneficial. Postures that involve slight twisting of the spine, opening the pelvis, and curving backwards can help relieve pain. Don't hesitate to ask your instructor for advice. Specific yoga courses for menstruation and PMS can be found of the internet. Remember, your period is not the best time to challenge yourself to exceed the normal limits of your body’s capabilities. Instead, give yourself more time to breathe between postures; stretch gently and listen to your body.
Swimming. Since swimming has a massaging and relaxing effect on all parts of your body, it is particularly beneficial during menstruation as it can help relieve cramps and lower back pain. A few lengths in the pool serves to warm the body, soothe aches and pains, and calm the mind. Don’t force yourself! If you are tired or don’t really feel like swimming, try a gentle aqua-aerobics session or simply enjoy being in the water.
When engaging in sports or other physical activities during menstruation, choose the most appropriate feminine hygiene products. Find a solution that is most comfortable for you and suits your lifestyle.
There is a variety of hygiene products to choose from—tampons, pads, moon cups, absorbent underpants… Your choice will be determined not only by personal preference, by also by the activities you engage in and the abundance of your menstrual discharge.
For example, the most practical feminine hygiene products for swimming—whether you swim indoors in a pool or outdoors in a lake, sea, or river—will be the tampon or the menstrual cup. A relatively new option is period swimwear with a hidden leak-proof lining.
Remember: if you choose to wear an absorbent pad during exercise, change it both before and after your exercise session as additional perspiration and friction can cause skin irritation.
And, of course, choosing a comfortable outfit that leaves you free to move is even more important when you are on your period.
During menstruation, avoid exercising in white or other light-colored bottoms. Choose sportswear that is snug, but not too tight. For extra reassurance you can wear an oversize shirt and don’t forget to bring a change of clothes—it may be useful.
Many female high-performance athletes are worried about how menstruation might affect their ability to perform. Researchers have not been able to identify many differences in a woman’s ability to exercise during the menstrual cycle. The only significant finding was for endurance events such as marathons. Studies have shown that women in a specific part of their cycle—when they have already ovulated but have not yet started menstruating—had more difficulty with endurance events in hot and humid weather.
Some female athletes who compete professionally find that menstruation is an obstacle to peak performance and use hormonal contraceptives to modify their menstrual cycles to avoid having a period during competition.
Attention! Remember, contraceptives should not be used indefinitely to manage your period for sports! It is highly recommended to track your period, so that you don’t get taken by surprise at an inopportune moment.
When strenuous training is sustained over a long period of time, it can have an unwanted impact on the menstrual cycle. Since estrogen levels are directly related to your body’s fat content, a significant loss of fat due to elevated energy expenditure can cause a woman’s estrogen level to sink to the point where the menstrual cycle is disrupted or stops entirely.
An extreme form of exercise-induced amenorrhea is known as the female athlete triad, sometimes experienced by teenage girls and young athletes who push themselves too far. The symptoms include:
That is why it is very important for coaches and doctors to observe young athletes and professional dancers. Family members can also young women manage their goals so that unreasonable expectations don’t end up irreversibly harming the health of a promising athlete.
If you are experiencing irregular or missed periods, talk to your doctor! A regular menstrual cycle is a sign of good health. Period problems can indicate more serious underlying health problems, including difficulty getting pregnant and loss of bone density.
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now: