Exercising and your period

A rather taboo subject still for reasons I will never understand – talking about women’s health and our periods is still shot down by many. In this day and age I feel it’s important to openly talk about subjects like this to highlight any benefits, issues or important information that many women and girls may not know.

Don’t get me wrong, the thought of working out on my period fills me with dread sometimes. I’ve always suffered with very bad cramps, and the idea of lifting weights or doing HIIT sprints on the treadmill sends shivers down my spine. At that time of the month, many of us panic as the hormones in our bodies often lead to us eating more and craving things that we would normal eat in moderation – I want you to remember this is totally normal! I won’t lie, when that time of the month hits me, all I want to do is curl up with James, eat all the carbs and watch telly with a blanket thrown over me…

For a lot of us the last thing we want to be doing on our period is exercising, but there aren’t really any reasons you need to miss a session – although if the pain is horrendous and you don’t want to go to the gym, then don’t! There are so many stretches you can do at home to help the cramps.

What are the benefits?

The physical and mental benefits of working out while you’re on your period are amazing. Staying active during this time can ease or alleviate many of the symptoms such as pain, cramps, bloating, mood swings and fatigue. Above all that, fitness is super important for female health as a whole as it can help reduce the risk of medical issues as we grow older.

A study released back in March this year by FitrWoman found that out of the 14,000+ women from around the world surveyed, a staggering 78% of them said that exercises reduces the symptoms related to their menstrual cycle!

Despite this amazing statistic, Dr Georgie Bruinvels, author of the report and co-founder of FitrWoman, explained in the report that many other women still feel their cycles are a barrier to exercise, or are unsure whether it’s healthy and safe to exercise at certain points during the month.

What exercises are good?

Although like anything, it’s always worth figuring our what works best for you, here are a few suggestions that I’ve found have helped me when that time of the month strikes:

Walking: I love a bit of LISS (low-intensity steady state cardio). Hopping on the treadmill or getting outside if the weather is good is a sure fire way to help alleviate pain and boost your mood. Even if it’s only for 20-30 minutes, you’ll get your heart pumping and your steps in for the day.

Strength training: If you’re up for it, lifting weights is a great way to help with that time of the month! It’s the method I use more often than not but the only change is that I take the weight I’m lifting down a few kgs! Don’t put any unnecessary pressure on your body and opt for low-volume training (fewer sets and reps).

Gentle stretching (yoga & pilates): 100% yoga and stretching are two of my go-to things during my “flow”. (See what I did there 😉 ) It’s ideal for relaxing your muscles and decreasing cramps and pain. I would recommend however only doing upright positions and not inversion poses like dolphin, downward-facing dog and puppy.

It’s important to remember though that if you feel unusually tired, nauseous, or there is an increase in pain or discomfort, stop what you are doing and rest. If these symptoms continue — stop completely. This is not a time to hit up the idea of “no pain, no gain”. Listen to your body ladies!

Do you exercise during that time of the month?

I’m always curious to know how other ladies get on during that time of the month as it’s not often spoken about. I have found however that on a couple of fitness related groups I am a part of on Facebook, including the Tone & Sculpt community, the topic is becoming more and more common and more women are reaching out to others for help and advice. Hopefully this little article will help, but if you need anymore information or to ask any questions about your period at all, please consult your doctor first!

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