Monday, October 15, 2012

Exercise & Menstruation

Medical studies suggest exercise can yield both positive and negative effects for menstruation. Exercise can mitigate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and make menstruation more tolerable. Another positive benefit of exercise for menstruating women is the reduced reliance on medications for PMS pain and stress. These beneficial side effects arise primarily from exercise that is light aerobic, rather than hard-impact or strength-bearing. According to studies of female athletes, intense exercises and harsh strength-training can negatively effect menstruating women by leading to a cessation of menses that can last for months or years.

This negative effect of strenuous exercise and menstruation has been studied for years as part of a phenomenon among women athletes known as “female athlete triad.” The triad includes interrupted menstruation, a loss of bone density, and extreme deficiency of the mineral iron, which is needed to replenish blood, including blood lost during the monthly menstrual cycle. With too much exercise, the body can deplete iron stores so much that no menstruation is possible. To avoid such detrimental results when combining exercise and menstruation, doctors recommend low-stress aerobic workouts with languid movements and stretching such as swimming, walking, and cycling.

Smart Structuring Of Your Workout Plan

As for your workouts, there are some additional considerations to take into account as they relate to your menstrual cycle.

First, keep in mind that your body temperature will rise during the luteal phase of your cycle. So if you're performing intense workouts—which also raise body temp—you may become uncomfortable, and hence unable to sustain very high intensities.

A second thing to bear in mind is that your tolerance for pain will be higher during the follicular phase of the cycle, after menstruation takes place. So it makes sense to place your harder workouts, the ones where you really plan to push yourself, during this time. You'll find that you have a higher level of tenacity. Time to push through and hit some new personal bests!

Carrying excess water weight throughout the luteal phase will also affect workout performance, especially if the workout includes running. That added weight will make you feel like you're working harder than usual.

Here are seven exercises that should be perfect for you during your period.


Even experts against a hardcore workout on your period have to agree that a walk gets you moving without injury or danger. So, put on some sneakers and sunblock, and hit the road. Walking by itself isn't a huge calorie burner, but you will feel good about the fact that you exercised. Don't stress the exact calorie count.


If you're feeling up for a jog, go for it. The endorphins you release during an intesnse cardio workout can help you beat the period ickies that you may be feeling. Hydrate well before, after and during your run, if possible; some researchers say you dehydrate more easily on your period. Whether that's true or not, err on the side of safety and keep drinking.


Yoga is very customizable; many poses have options to match your skill level. Inversions aren't recommended during your period, although this has no definitive medical basis. Still, having the option to relax in the goddess position if you're not up for a headstand is nice.


Sometimes, when you're on your period, you just want to go a little crazy. Aerobic exercise is the perfect way to let loose. Plus, aerobics classes are typically held in a low-pressure environment where the focus is on fun.


Shaking it up on the dance floor isn't exercise in the traditional sense, but it will rev your heart rate and burn some calories. This is a great option because it doesn't feel like exercise -- and when you're on your period, you might need a little motivation to get gussied up and feel great about who you are. Stepping out into an evening of dancing and fun will certainly give you that extra oomph and make you feel fabulous.


When it's that time of the month, all you want to do is stay home and watch Lifetime movies. Make the most of your TV time by holding a plank position during the commercials: 
  1. Get down on the floor.
  2. Put your arms and elbows under your chest.
  3. Raise your body using just your forearms and toes, and hold.
This is an intense all-over workout. Start by holding your plank during every other commercial and work up to holding through an entire commercial break.


Pop in an exercise DVD or pull up an on OnDemand workout. You don't need to dress in fancy workout gear, and quitting early won't be embarrassing if you're just doing it in your living room. Only you will know that you sweated to the oldies in your flannel nightie for exactly 14 minutes before sinking back into your couch to watch the Real Housewives reunion. (Nothing makes you feel less hormonal than watching legit crazy people, right?)
Don't use your period as an excuse to forget your fitness routine -- but do listen to your body if you need a break from it. Give some of the above workouts a try.

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