Exercising During That Time of the Month: Fact vs. Fiction
Periods are bad enough without having to worry about a workout. But the truth of the matter is, the week of your period is probably the time when you need exercise the most. All that bloating, feeling crabby, and sometimes unbearable pain in your midsection is reason enough to try anything for relief. Turns out, there just may be some benefits, along with misconceptions, when it comes to all that menstrual madness. Here’s what you need to know.
1. True: You should exercise during your period
Getting out of bed during your period, especially at the start of it, can be a real drag. However, it’s important to know just how beneficial getting your sweat on can be, despite frequent bathroom breaks during your stint at the gym. Working out can actually help relieve some of those back-breaking period symptoms. Not only should you get plenty of exercise, but U by Kotex says you’ll feel better if you do, seeing as exercise can help with cramps and boost your mood. It’s pretty much a win-win.
2. False: You’re more prone to injury during your period
Sorry, but you can no longer use this one as an excuse to skip the gym. Despite somewhat popular belief, being on your period doesn’t equate to a bigger risk of getting hurt. Just because an ACL injury is more common in women than in men doesn’t mean you should swear off all physical activity for a week each month. In fact, research from the Journal of Athletic Training shows ACL injuries are more prevalent during days nine through 14 of your cycle.
Because a cycle begins on day one of your period, it’s after you’ve finished your period that you’re at the greatest risk. ACL injuries tend to be lower during the post-ovulatory phase, or day 15 through the end of your cycle, which is the time leading up to your next period.
3. True: You should avoid inversions
It’d be difficult to argue yoga is bad for you any day of the week. However, if you’re one of the many, many women who experiences low energy levels during your period, it may be best to avoid high-energy poses, like inversions. As mentioned in Yoga Journal, one school of thought says inversions — especially those held for long amounts of time — may cause “vascular congestion.” Basically, standing on your head could potentially result in excessive bleeding. On the flip side, the publication also pointed out that not all women experience low energy levels, so you’ll have to take this one on more of a case-by-case basis.
4. False: During your period, you are hotter than usual
It seems like it would make perfect sense that having your period means you’re more likely to overheat. After all, your body’s going through some serious hormonal changes. However, that’s not the case. In fact, after ovulation — the time leading up to your period — Our Bodies Ourselves says temperatures typically rise to 97.6 to 98.6 degrees. Temps usually stay put until your next period, when they drop slightly once again. Now, does your body experience a massive change in temperature when this happens? Not really. Feel free to attend hot yoga any day of your cycle.
5. True: It’ll boost your mood
The fact that exercise releases a bunch of feel-good endorphins is nothing new. It is, however, something to keep in mind when you’re feeling less than yourself during that time of the month. Most women deal with some sort of PMS each month, and one symptom that often casts the biggest shadow? Irritability.
Mood swings are a reality for most, so being proactive about fending them off is key. More specifically, Michael Otto, Ph.D., tells the American Psychological Association, “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong. Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.” So, there you have it. Get some exercise, boost your mood.
6. False: One type of workout fits all
No two periods are created equal, which means there’s no one method that works best for everyone. While there are differing schools of thought when it comes to which workout is best, it all comes down to you as an individual. You need to ask yourself what kind of symptoms are most prevalent, and what your body responds to best.
So, what type of workout is best for you? Below are two options.
If you’re feeling up to it, a high-intensity interval workout is for you. Stacy Sims, Ph.D., tells Health because estrogen levels are low during your period, women are able to use carbohydrates with greater ease. During high-estrogen times, there’s a slower breakdown of fat, making those carbs more difficult to access. In simpler terms, this hormone shift “makes fuel more accessible to your body, allowing you to push harder and get more out of short, fast-paced workouts than you would during other times of the month.”
Less intense workouts may be for you, especially if you have particularly bad periods. Skipping cardio to opt for a more low-key exercise plan affords you the option to take it easier than usual without skipping the gym altogether. Cosmopolitan recommends walking, swimming, or an easy bike ride. Or, if yoga’s your thing, certain positions, such as those that involve lying on your belly, can help alleviate cramping.
7. False: Stay away from water during your period
There are lots of reasons to stay on shore during your period. But unless you’re a true land lover, you need to know taking a dip, along with humid environments, can benefit you in more ways than one. Besides being a fun, low-impact workout, swimming may actually help relieve some of your symptoms. In fact, PopSugar says it’ll help with circulation, which calms cramps. So go ahead and hop in that pool, relax in a hot tub, or chill out in a steam room. You’ll be happy you dedicated a bit of extra time to a little R&R.
8. True: You still need to drink lots of water
You know drinking water is essential every day and during every workout, regardless of if you have your period or not. Sapna Vyas Patel, Ph.D., suggests drinking 10-12 glasses throughout your menstrual cycle. In particular, she mentions dehydration increases bloating — and no woman wants that.
9. False: A workout during your period will be less effective
Nope, not true. Although it may feel like it, given the fact you’re suffering through cramps and fatigue, working out during your period is, often times, just as effective as a workout when you don’t have it. In a study of 241 athletes, 62% of participants reported they didn’t notice a difference in performance from when they had their period to when they didn’t. Additionally, 63% said pain decreased during competition. So, even if you’re not totally feeling it, getting your butt to the gym will pay off.