Exercise is such an important factor in your physical and mental health - and is also great for supporting your menstrual cycle. But as your hormones fluctuate throughout the month, you might find that the type of exercise you enjoy doing changes too - and that’s ok!
Here we’ll break down the best exercise for each phase of your menstrual cycle and also talk about how exercise can help you have improved period health.
- During and just before your period your energy levels are lower - low-impact exercises like walking and yoga are great for keeping you moving and relieving PMS and period pain symptoms.
- In our follicular phase, oestrogen levels are peaking and so are our energy levels! This is a great time for HIIT classes but be careful - you’re most likely to get injured during this time.
- Around ovulation our testosterone levels are high, so this is the time to push yourself in the gym as your body will be primed to get stronger.
During your period your oestrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest - and this can mean your energy levels are at rock bottom too. Menstruation is often referred to as the ‘winter’ phase of our cycle - so it’s no surprise that you might feel like hibernating during your bleed!
Rest is really important at this time in your cycle, so if that’s what your body is craving, then there’s no shame in leaning into a few days of relaxation. However, if you can get your body moving, low-impact exercise can be really helpful for easing period symptoms - particularly pain and discomfort.
Workouts like yoga and pilates are perfect for your period - as they will get your body moving gently and ease up muscle tension, whilst also calming your mind. Walking is another great low-impact exercise to do when your energy levels are depleted, and getting fresh air and spending time in nature is good for your mental well-being.
Your follicular phase technically starts on the first day of your period, but you probably won’t feel that lovely uptick in your mood and energy until your period is over and your oestrogen levels begin to rise. At this point in our cycle, our desire to take risks and be sociable is high, so this might be a great time to try out a new workout or make some new friends by engaging in team sports.
As our energy levels are high, you might also be attracted to more intense workouts like HIIT training or strength training - but be careful! Studies have shown that muscle and tendon injuries occur almost twice as often in the late follicular phase (around day 7 to day 15) compared to the early follicular or luteal phase, probably because oestrogen can make our tendons more lax!
Studies indicate that around ovulation we get a surge in our testosterone levels. This is part of the reason your sex drive might increase around that time - but it’s also a great opportunity to channel your hormonal rush into your workouts!
When we do a particularly tough workout - especially anything involving strength training - our muscles tear and then get stronger as they repair during our rest periods. An increase in testosterone helps with the growth and repair of muscle mass, making ovulation a great time to push yourself as your body will be primed and ready to get stronger!
It’s important to note that whilst many people feel great during ovulation, for others, it might be painful or you might feel really fatigued, especially when your oestrogen levels drop right after ovulation occurs. Always listen to your body and if you’re craving rest - make sure you get it!
As we move towards the end of our cycle, oestrogen levels decline and progesterone becomes more dominant. This can make us feel less sociable and more risk averse - the opposite of how we’re feeling in our follicular phase. This might be a time for slowing down slightly or even enjoying some at-home workouts, especially if you’re feeling pretty insular.
Around this time of your cycle, your body temperature naturally rises. You probably won’t notice it but it can mean you get hotter a lot faster when doing intense cardio - and this can make you feel exhausted faster too. You can definitely still do the exercise you love around this time, but just be aware that if your performance dips slightly, it’s likely down to your lower energy levels rather than your abilities!
How Exercise Can Help You Have A Happier Cycle
Understanding the right exercises for your menstrual cycle can help you feel more aligned and empowered when choosing your workouts. But, if you still need some extra motivation to get moving, here are 4 reasons that exercise can help you have a happier cycle!
The hormonal changes that happen as you move towards your period can cause your serotonin (happy hormone) levels to dip. Endorphins are great for naturally boosting your serotonin levels and exercise boosts your endorphin production! One study found that women struggling with PMS who did 60-minute aerobic sessions three times a week felt much better physically, mentally, and most importantly for PMS - emotionally.
Many of us will find that around our periods we become bloated - which can be painful and uncomfortable. If you are living with endometriosis, you might find that you experience bloating throughout your entire cycle. This bloating is often caused by inflammation and water retention - two things that exercise can help with by getting your blood circulation going. Working out can also help maintain a healthy digestive system, removing excess salt and gas which are two big contributing factors to bloat.
Regulating your cycle
There are many reasons behind an irregular menstrual cycle - from stress to PCOS - but generally speaking, a sedentary lifestyle can make these issues worse. Regular exercise helps all functions of your body work at an optimum level - and that includes keeping the hormones involved in your menstrual cycle working as they should.
However, it's all about having a balanced, active lifestyle without overdoing it. Remember that over-exercising can also cause your periods to become irregular or stop altogether - this can sometimes be a big issue for professional athletes.
Cramps and pain
Endorphins are not only great mood boosters, but they are also natural pain relievers. Exercise produces endorphins and helps to pump them around the body, supporting the cycling out of prostaglandins that cause muscle contractions and period pain.
During our period, our uterus can feel very full and this pressure can increase the pain and inflammation we’re experiencing. Exercise can help relieve some of that pressure and encourage blood flow away from the pelvis. Stretching can also help to relieve period cramps by reducing the amount of muscle tension and stopping your muscles from contracting around your uterus.
Exercise is a perfect natural pain reliever, but doesn’t always work instantaneously. The Myoovi kit not only delivers instant, powerful pain relief but it;’s wireless design means you can wear it whatever workout you're doing!