How and Why You Need to Exercise on Your Period

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Exercising during your periods releases endorphins, which increases the feel-good chemical dopamine and relieves pain

Endorphins are brain chemicals with pain-relieving, pleasure-inducing properties.

One type, called beta-endorphins, can actually be more effective at relieving pain than morphine. I like to think of endorphins as my brain’s private pharmacy.

Exercise also decreases inflammation, improves blood flow, and increases your energy over time.

This is excellent news when you’re dealing with period-related pain and fatigue. Pretty cool, huh?

So what kind of exercise should you do? I’m glad you asked, because I wrote a whole guide below.

Do exercise(s) you already like

This is not the time to try CrossFit or other high-intensity, unfamiliar workouts. Do what already works for you, whether that’s yoga, hiking, weightlifting, etc.

Runners jogging in park

Though your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle, you always inhabit the same body. You already know what feels good for your body — and what doesn’t.

Work with what you already know works. Plus, not having to endure Cross Fit is always a bonus.

Focus on the benefits

What keeps you from exercising? For me, the hardest part is starting. I was resentful and in pain when I embarked on that fateful hike.

What motivated me back then was getting Greg off my case. What motivates me today is knowing how much better I will feel after.

What will motivate you to exercise while bleeding? Pain relief? Feeling proactive and in control of your health? Getting a break from your noisy upstairs neighbor who’s been blasting music all day without any consideration for the fact that you’re cranky and cramping?

Push yourself to at least try. Give it 5 minutes. If you hate it, you can always stop.

Pick the right period product

Obviously, you can’t use a pad if you’re swimming laps. Tampons are the classic active option, though many folks find tampons irritating or uncomfortable. And pads are even more “chafey” (chafe-inducing? chafe-tastic?) during physical activity.

Consider a menstrual cup, disc, or period underwear. Period underwear is magical: You just bleed and go about your day. Experiment with different products and see what works best for you.

Take it easy

A friend of mine who’s a menstrual activist taught me that my period is an opportunity to reflect, relax, and rest. It’s also a great time to bond with other bleeding folks in your community.

Yes, I’m encouraging you to get moving. I’m not encouraging you to push your body’s physical limits.

A walk around the neighborhood is exercise. A gentle yoga or stretching routine is exercise. Heck, sex is exercise.

Anything that gets you moving also gets your blood flowing and your endorphins popping. When it comes to physical activity, something is always better than nothing.

Listen to your body

Every period is different. One month you may have a light flow, no cramps, and the energy of a superhero. But next month it might take all your energy to do a lap around the block.

Don’t get discouraged if your co-worker brags about their period productivity while your period sometimes forces you to call out of work.

Don’t let anyone else dictate your experience or feelings about your body or your period — including me.

This is a guide, not a mandate. Take what works for you and discard the rest 

If you’ve got other tips and tricks for working out on your period, I’d love to hear them.