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Empowering Workouts: Exercising Wisely During Your Period

A woman is exercising with ropes in a gym.
Read Time: 10 minutes

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It’s that inevitable time of the month again, and for many, the comfort of the bed seems like the only refuge. The mere thought of periods invokes a familiar sense of dread, with images of cramps, bloating, and discomfort vividly playing in our minds. The quandary intensifies when we ponder the safety and worth of hitting the gym. Should we abandon our fitness routines for our menstrual cycle, or is it safe and beneficial to continue with our workouts?

Understanding Menstrual Discomfort

Many women experience varying degrees of discomfort during their period. The discomfort primarily stems from menstrual cramps, bloating, mood swings, and general malaise, making even the most mundane tasks seem laborious. This discomfort can, understandably, raise questions about the feasibility and safety of exercising during this time.

The Safety of Exercising During Menstruation

While the inclination might be to forego exercise in favor of rest, scientific evidence suggests that engaging in physical activity is safe and beneficial during menstruation. Listening to your body and modifying your workouts accordingly is crucial, emphasizing comfort and well-being.

The Benefit of Routine

Maintaining a semblance of routine during menstruation can be a powerful means of combatting the symptoms. By adhering to a regular workout schedule, we might foster a sense of normalcy and control, potentially diminishing the impact of menstrual symptoms on our overall well-being.

How Exercise Alleviates Symptoms

  1. Combatting Cramps:
    • Regular exercise can help alleviate menstrual cramps. It promotes blood flow and releases endorphins, acting as natural painkillers, helping to ease the discomfort.
  2. Mitigating Bloating:
    • Engaging in aerobic exercises may help reduce bloating, one of the most common and aggravating symptoms experienced during menstruation.
  3. Enhancing Mood:
    • Exercise can combat mood swings by releasing serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, thus alleviating feelings of depression and irritability that often accompany menstruation.
  4. Improving Sleep Quality:
    • Physical activity can significantly improve sleep quality, addressing one of the common challenges many women face during their periods.

Tailoring Your Workout

Tailoring your workouts to suit your comfort and energy levels during your period is essential. While some might prefer lighter exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga, others might find it comfortable to continue their regular-intensity workouts.

Examples of Suitable Exercises

  1. Light Cardio:
    • Walking, cycling, or swimming can promote blood flow without overly straining the body.
  2. Strength Training:
    • Light strength training can help maintain muscle tone and strength depending on comfort levels.
  3. Yoga and Pilates:
    • These are excellent options for maintaining flexibility and core strength, with the benefit of promoting relaxation and stress relief.
  4. Stretching and Mobility Exercises:
    • These can help alleviate muscle tension and discomfort, especially in the lower back and abdominal regions.

Listening to Your Body

Above all, it is paramount to listen to your body’s signals. If your body is yearning for rest, it’s essential to honor that need. Alternatively, if you feel capable of engaging in physical activity, doing so can significantly contribute to managing and alleviating menstrual discomfort.

In conclusion, while the idea of curling up in bed with a hot water bottle might be tempting and necessary at times, exploring the possibility of incorporating suitable exercises can be a game-changer in managing menstrual discomfort. The key lies in striking a balance, respecting your body’s needs, and choosing activities that contribute to your well-being during this time.

Can I Exercise While I’m on My Period?

The initial days of the menstrual cycle can be daunting for many. Exercising might seem utterly unappealing with the onslaught of mood swings, discomfort, and pain. However, embracing physical activity during this time can indeed serve as a balm, mitigating the unwelcome symptoms associated with periods.

Addressing Concerns and Recognizing the Benefits:

It’s a common query among many – is it possible to engage in workouts while menstruating? The answer is a resounding yes. The tumultuous initial days marked by emotional upheaval and physical discomfort may make exercising seem inconceivable, but incorporating physical activity can significantly alleviate these symptoms.

Recommendations for Coaches:

Coaches training sportswomen are advised to factor in the menstrual cycle, recognizing periods where performance might wane or peak. For instance, the initial day of the menstrual cycle might witness a performance dip. This understanding needs to be individualized, enabling athletes to leverage their bodily states optimally, ensuring maximal outcomes from their training sessions.

Enhanced Performance and Symptom Alleviation:

Despite its associated discomforts, the menstrual cycle can present windows of enhanced performance, owing to the lowered levels of estrogen and progesterone in the first two weeks. This presents an opportunity to witness amplified gains in strength and power.

Specific Benefits:

  1. Combating Bloating: Bloating is a prevalent and irksome symptom encountered during menstruation. Regular aerobic exercise is a potent remedy, offering substantial relief from this and other PMS symptoms.

  2. Promoting Sleep Quality: While exercise is universally acknowledged for its sleep-enhancing properties, its significance is heightened for those struggling with sleep quality during their periods, offering a much-needed respite.

  3. Diminishing PMS Symptoms: The quest to alleviate PMS symptoms, including fatigue and mood fluctuations, is common among women. Exercise emerges as a powerful antidote, restoring energy levels and stabilizing moods, even when exhaustion seems overwhelming.

  4. Eliciting Endorphin Release: The euphoria following a fulfilling workout, attributed to endorphin release, is unparalleled. These natural pain alleviators not only elevate mood but also alleviate menstrual pain, enhancing overall well-being.

Optimizing Workouts:

Workouts during this time need not be strenuous. Even light, consistent exercises can offer substantial benefits, alleviating symptoms, and enhancing mood and overall well-being. It’s essential to be attuned to your body’s signals, adjusting workout intensities and types based on individual comfort levels and preferences.

Potential for Increased Strength and Power:

The unique hormonal milieu during the initial phase of the menstrual cycle offers a golden opportunity for augmenting strength and power. The diminished levels of estrogen and progesterone during this phase can be conducive to witnessing significant gains in these areas.

Moderation is Key: Avoid Overexertion

When you’re navigating through your menstrual cycle, it’s crucial to adopt a balanced approach to physical activity. There might be a predilection to pursue your usual workout regimen with relentless vigor, especially if you subscribe to the philosophy that more is invariably better. However, this might not be the most prudent approach.

Individualized Approach to Training:

Adjusting your workouts to be less intensive but equally beneficial during this time is essential. For those inclined towards strength training, consider moderating the volume of power-centric activities integrated into your workout routine. Given that female hormones are at a nadir during the initial fortnight of the menstrual cycle, this period is ripe with opportunities to witness significant enhancements in strength.

Tailored Workouts During Menstruation

1. Aerobic and Cardio Exercises:

During the first few days of the menstrual cycle, modifying the intensity and duration of aerobic and cardio exercises is advisable. The incorporation of less strenuous activities can provide relief from the discomforts experienced during menstruation.

2. Mind-Body Exercises:

Pilates, yoga, and stretching emerge as excellent alternatives. These exercises alleviate symptoms like cramps and muscular fatigue and induce relaxation, aiding in both physical and mental well-being during menstruation.

3. Low-Intensity Activities:

Walking and light jogging can also be incorporated, focusing on keeping the body active without causing additional stress.

4. Balance and Flexibility:

Engage in exercises that enhance balance and flexibility, like tai chi or dance, which can be therapeutic and less taxing on the body.

Understanding Personal Limits

Choosing exercises during this time is a profoundly individualized decision. While many women continue their regular exercise routine throughout their cycle, others might find this challenging. Respecting your body’s signals and delineating your boundaries meticulously is paramount. Abstaining from exercising isn’t necessarily the optimal route; instead, it’s about discerning requisite modifications. Pushing beyond your limits, especially when your body grapples with the added stress of menstruation, can be deleterious.

Guidelines to Prevent Overexertion

  • Listen to Your Body:
    • Understand and respect your body’s signals. If you feel too tired or are in pain, opt for lighter activities.
  • Stay Hydrated:
    • Adequate hydration is crucial, especially during your period, to prevent muscle cramps and maintain energy levels.
  • Nutritional Intake:
    • Consume a balanced diet rich in iron and vitamins to compensate for the loss during menstruation and to sustain energy levels.
  • Use Proper Equipment:
    • Ensure suitable gear and equipment are used to avoid any strain or injury.
  • Warm-Up and Cool Down:
    • Incorporate adequate warm-up and cool-down sessions to prepare the body for exercise and prevent muscle stiffness.


Exercising during one’s menstrual cycle may seem counterintuitive due to the discomfort and pain associated with this time. However, the benefits, from alleviating symptoms like bloating and mood swings to potentially enhancing strength and power, make it worthwhile. While the body’s hormonal state during the initial stages of the menstrual cycle can render it more conducive to gains in strength, individuals should pay heed to their comfort and pain levels, adjusting exercise intensities accordingly. Including lighter and more relaxing exercises like pilates, yoga, and stretching can relieve cramps and muscular fatigue. Listening to your body, understanding its limits while staying active, and respecting individual variability in comfort and preference regarding exercise types is essential. Doing so can optimize well-being and fitness, navigating menstrual discomfort with resilience and grace.


1. Can exercising during your period alleviate symptoms?

Yes, exercising during your period can help alleviate several symptoms, such as bloating, mood swings, and fatigue, by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and improving sleep quality.

2. Are there specific exercises recommended during menstruation?

While it depends on individual comfort and preference, incorporating lighter and relaxing exercises like pilates, yoga, and stretching can be beneficial in mitigating discomfort, cramps, and muscular fatigue.

3. Can one continue with their regular high-intensity workout routine during their period?

While many find it comfortable to continue their regular routine, it is recommended to listen to your body and adjust the intensity, possibly incorporating less strenuous activities, especially during the first few days of the period.

4. Is there a particular time during the menstrual cycle that is more conducive to gains in strength and power?

Yes, the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, when the hormones estrogen and progesterone are lower, can be more conducive to making significant gains in strength and power.

5. How can one determine which exercises are suitable during their period?

Determining suitable exercises involves listening to one’s body, respecting individual variability, and possibly adjusting exercise intensities and types based on comfort levels, pains, and preferences. Keep in mind that maintaining some level of physical activity is generally beneficial during this time.


McNulty, K. L., Elliott-Sale, K. J., Dolan, E., Swinton, P. A., Ansdell, P., Goodall, S., Thomas, K., & Hicks, K. M. (2020). The Effects of Menstrual Cycle Phase on Exercise Performance in Eumenorrheic Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 50(10), 1813–1827.

Editor’s note: The content on Base Strength is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns. Please also see our disclaimers.

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