If you're anything like me, your menstrual cycle can be a harrowing time. Between the cramping and the crappy moods, it's just not a good time. My usual remedy to this is microwaving one of those buckwheat warming pillows, having Nutella for breakfast, and taking a long nap. For real, I can't say enough about the importance of giving yourself real time to rest during your period. It's simply necessary, a kind thing to do for your body, and the perfect time to re-watch Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. But I have also found that working out on your period can be really beneficial, not just because exercise is good for you in general, but because doing so -- even if it's just two or three times during your cycle -- can give some of those symptoms relief and make them a bit more bearable.
Trust me, this doesn't have to mean taking a bunch of Advil and doing intense cardio kickboxing. Like I said, if you're really feeling like you need to keep your butt parked on the couch for the day for the sake of your well-being, by all means, listen to your body.
But a good long walk, a restorative set of stretches, or even dancing and scream-singing in your bedroom might just do the trick when you need an extra boost during your monthly visit from Aunt Flo. Here are some of the unexpected benefits you might notice if you do decide to give it a go.
1. Exercise Can Combat Fatigue
You know how sometimes, when you're on your period, you feel like you've just run a marathon without stopping to drink any water? Well, believe it or not, exercise can actually help a lot with that (and no, it's not necessarily just about doing high-intensity workouts).
Studies find that low-impact exercise can really boost energy levels and combat those super sleepy feelings that come over you during that time of the month.
2. Your Workout Might Actually Be More Effective
According to a study from Umeå University in Sweden, working out in the first two weeks of your cycle can be particularly beneficial, as it actually optimizes resistance training. Fifty-nine women participated in the study over a period of four months, and it was found that leg strength, jump height, and flexibility were all improved at a much faster rate for the women who were working out in their cycle's first two weeks.
So, maybe this is the perfect time to do a few strength training reps or follow a barre class on YouTube. It's worth a shot, right?
3. A Little Sweat Will Ease Your Cramps
Hell to the yes. Exercise helps to relieve cramps because of the release of something called beta-endorphins, which are basically your body's internal, naturally produced pain relievers that help burn chemicals in the body that cause muscle contractions during your period (aka cramps).
Now, if you're really doubled over in pain, a hot water bottle and a cup of raspberry leaf tea might do the trick. Otherwise, try some good stretching or take a relaxing, brisk walk. Or, better yet, try a gentle yoga flow designed specifically for this purpose.
But stay away from those inversions, like shoulder stand, OK? They reverse blood flow, which is the last thing you need.
4. Working Out Also Helps Relieve Menstrual Headaches
If you're prone to headaches, especially during that time of the month try going for a light jog.
While it's not totally clear why, studies find that exercise helps to prevent migraines and headaches, possibly due to tension release, or because of those miraculous endorphins flooding through your body.
5. It'll Keep Your Body Cool
Your body temperature is actually lower during your period, so you can handle more heat without your central nervous system going into overdrive.
So, does that mean I'm not going to sweat like a summer storm during my weekly dance class? I sure hope so.
6. It'll Boost Your Mood
Yeah, maybe there are times during your period when you want to yell at strangers and throw things at the TV (or is that just me?). But if you're more prone to mood swings during your period, a consistent 30 minutes a day devoted solely to moving your body can be a great way to help. The endorphins released when you exercise are going to help regulate and boost your moods.
While some of those bloody days call for putting your feet up and making a nest of pillows, give a little movement a shot, too. You might just be glad you did.