Crazy back pain and dramatic breakouts are just a couple of the woes that can plague women during their monthly cycle, and make it feel damn near impossible to get a workout in. But it may be worth putting down the Halo Top and hot water pad and dragging yourself the gym, because new research exercise can actually help with period symptoms.
A team of researchers in England analyzed responses from over 14,000 Strava female athletes, and found that 78% of them reported that exercise "reduced the discomfort of their period." Almost half of these women (47%, to be exact), felt that "moderate intensity exercise"—which means you're breathing hard, but still able to hold a conversation—was the most effective for helping with things like stomach cramps, breast pain, mood changes, fatigue and cravings.
And not only can working out during your period help you feel better, but it can actually potentially lead to a PR: According to Meg Takacs, a New York City-based CrossFit and Aaptiv trainer, it's the (ahem!) period when some women might achieve their most goal-crushing workouts.
"Yeah, periods suck. But your workouts don’t have to," the trainer captioned a recent Instagram post. Can I get a hallelujah? While your luteal phase (the week before your flow starts) might spell more sluggish sweat sessions, the week when you're menstruating comes with the ideal hormonal conditions to kick your usual mileage up a notch." Schedule races, HIIT workouts, and sprint workouts" during this time, recommends the trainer.
The biological reason behind this supercharged time of month is pretty cool, too. "It’s because at this time in the cycle, the female hormonal cycle is resetting and getting ready for the upcoming month," explains Adeeti Gupta, MD, founder of Walk In GYN Care in New York City. "The estrogen has started to rise at this point and the other hormones are at a stable baseline. The hormonal symphony is a complicated topic, but essentially a woman's energy and libido is primed during or just after the period."
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⚠️The Power of Your Period ⚠️ Remember the last time you were mad at a wall? Yeah, periods suck. But your workouts don’t have to. Here’s the truth: *Cues Cardi B song 1️⃣The week before your period: This is when you feel like you’re running through mud. Why? 👉🏼Because your estrogen levels peak, and your metabolism is using fat (which is slow to release) instead of carbs. How to workout around this time: steady state aerobic workouts (Endurance runs, yoga, spin) The hard part: recognizing that this is what’s going on, knowing that your badass-ness WILL return, and understanding steady/easy workouts are just as necessary/beneficial as hard workouts. - 2️⃣The week you are ON your period and the week after: when you peak with performance. Why? 👉🏼This is because you have the lowest level of “female hormones” which means your other systems are done preparing for your cycle, and you now have full optimization of your energy systems and body. How to workout during this: schedule races, HIIT workouts, and sprint workouts. The hard part: pushing yourself to workout even when you’re on your period. The cramps will go away, you just gotta get moving. - ❤️Start tracking your periods so you can schedule workouts, and continue to slay. And also... let’s start talking about “taboo” topics. #PowerofthePword
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Sure, the symptoms associated with your period can create barrier to entry when it comes to sprinting on the treadmill. But Dr. Gupta points to preliminary evidence that suggests breaking a sweat might help to alleviate even the worst cramps.
"Although there are no clear studies to prove this, the theory for why exercise helps [your cramps]—which we know by clinical experience that it does—is two-fold. With exercise, the pelvic muscles get warm and relaxed and this relieves the pain happening from the spasm of the pelvic muscle which may be the culprit for many women with painful periods. It also increases blood flow to the pelvic organs," she explains.
Tia Guster, MD, an OB/GYN at Piedmont Healthcare, adds that raising your body temperature and releasing endorphins also helps soothe your uterus. "If you have very heavy periods or have other medical conditions that make your periods very painful and heavy, then just take it easy," advises Dr. Gupta. You know your body best, but should you feel the need for speed, don't deny yourself your superwoman-esque time of the month.
Here's even more intel on pounding the pavement during your period. Plus, what to do if (*gasp*) your menstrual cup gets stuck.
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