You’re weeks into a new program and feeling stronger than ever. Then comes your period. Do you continue to exercise during your period as if the flow never came, or take a rest day?
Cramps, mood swings, bloating and GI issues can all affect your motivation to work out, as well as your physical and mental well-being during that time of the month.
But the general consensus about working on your period is “you will.”
“Although you should cut back on workouts altogether or take complete rest if you experience painful cramps or fatigue, there’s no medical reason to stop working out,” says ACE-certified personal trainer Rachel McPherson.
If you feel like working on your period, read on to learn more about the benefits of period workouts, including the best exercises and a few to avoid.
Benefits of working on your period
Every person — and every cycle — is different, but if you want to work on your period, science is on your side.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends “regular aerobic exercise” to reduce PMS symptoms such as GI problems and fluid retention.
“[Exercise] can relax your muscles, lift your mood and distract you from pain,” says certified personal trainer Yasmin Buchanan.
for this relief That pain, don’t expect instant results from your workout.
Although more research is needed, a 2019 systematic review found that both low- and high-intensity workouts “can provide a greater reduction in period pain intensity” than no exercise.
But most studies asked participants to exercise at least three times a week for 45 to 60 minutes — and some asked participants to rest during their periods.
“If your cramps are mild and you feel well enough to work out, try starting more gently and see how you feel,” McPherson advises. “It’s really a case-by-case basis.”
In other words, there’s no need to skip leg day just because you’re on your period.
If your mood feels like it’s been on a roller coaster before and during your period, consistent exercise can help.
A 2013 study of women aged 18 to 25 found that 8 weeks of regular exercise reduced their physical and psychological symptoms.
Studies show that exercise positively affects the brain, increasing levels of mood-enhancing hormones and neurotransmitters such as endocannabinoids, serotonin and dopamine.
The best exercise you’ll ever do
The best exercises to do during your period are the ones you enjoy doing.
Focus on keeping things simple and gentle while listening to your body every day.
“Gentle recommendations include light resistance training or band work, walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates,” McPherson says. “These types of exercises have been wonderful for clients during their periods.”
Buchanan says gentle yoga is “brilliant at this time.”
“Yoga can be incredibly grounding and soothing for the body,” she adds. “Yoga can give you space to breathe, nourish and renew your energy levels.”
Try these yoga moves to help with PMS, or use these to help you feel more relaxed.
Programs like PiYo and XB Pilates are low-impact and ideal for working out during your period.
A 2021 study found that a three-month Pilates program reduced PMS symptoms compared to a control group who did not add any exercise to their routine.
Fortunately, we’ve debunked the myth that swimming is off limits during your period.
It’s actually a low-impact form of cardio that can have a beneficial effect on PMS symptoms.
Active recovery and targeted stretching
If you don’t feel up to a full workout, try active recovery instead.
“Active recovery can help you feel better and improve symptoms,” McPherson says.
Feeling tight and sore?
Focus on period cramp exercises that target your hips, glutes and low back.
Try these 9 yoga poses to help relieve hip and lower back pain.
If your glutes are giving you grief, these 8 best stretches for hip pain — and glute bridges — can help, too.
If stomach issues keep you from working out during your period, consider The 4 Week Gut Protocol – a comprehensive nutrition program that shows you how the food you eat can affect your gut health and how your gut health affects your overall health. by doing
To avoid over-taxing the body, Beachbody super trainer and nutritionist Autumn Calabrese created 4 Weeks for Every Body, a gentle no-impact workout that can be done on its own or paired with the 4 Week Gut Protocol.
Exercises to avoid during your period
If the best workouts feel good during your period, the exercises to avoid aren’t.
Go back and do what you can, advises Buchanan.
“If you’re not able to work out at the same intensity as you usually do, do some stretching, do a light exercise, do some yoga, or take a walk—whatever works for you,” she says.
You may want to postpone more intense cardio sessions; A small study found that lung capacity may decrease early in your menstrual cycle.
Anything that causes pain
Don’t try to push through the pain.
“You should be as in tune with your body as possible,” says McPherson.
And if you need to bail or change your plan, do so. “Plan a rest day and see if you feel better on or after the last days of your cycle.”
Inversion yoga pose… or not?
What about headstands and handstands? Should you avoid them during your period?
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you may have heard the instructors say that menstruating people shouldn’t invert.
“There is an old traditional way of thinking about certain yoga postures, such as contortions, that should be avoided, but there is no medical evidence to back this up,” McPherson says.
If you can work during your period, go for it. If you can’t muster up or your cramps are very intense, take a break, rest, and focus on taking care of yourself.
The best workouts for your period are the ones that feel good – think low impact, slow and gentle.
And for period cramps, exercises that stretch the hips, glutes, and lower back can feel really good.