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Exercise And The Menstrual Cycle

Have you ever wondered why your work-out routine seems so much harder on some days? Or like an absolute breeze on others? Maybe you don’t have a solid work-out routine, but want to form one. In this article, we’re going to share some tips on how to get the most out of your exercises to support a healthy menstrual cycle. Most importantly, remember:

Everyone is different and every cycle is different, so take time to listen and learn what your body needs.

Does the menstrual cycle impact exercise?

Yes! You may or may not experience different levels of energy and motivation throughout your menstrual cycle. Either way, things are happening that can impact your feelings towards and what you’re capable of when exercising.

How does the menstrual cycle impact exercise?

The changes in hormone levels impact energy and motivation throughout the entire cycle. Menstruation especially is a lot of work for your body since you’re losing blood. It is a natural cycle that we can work with rather than against.

Can exercise affect the menstrual cycle?

Yes! Gentle exercises, like walking and yoga, can help relieve period pains like cramps. Too much exercise may make your periods lighter or stop. This is not healthy and is known as “amenorrhea”. It’s important to make sure that you are eating enough of the right foods to fuel the exercise you do. Remember, it’s about balance, not straining your body.

Exercise Suggestions throughout the Menstrual Cycle

Here are suggestions for what types of exercise to do throughout the cycle. Feel free to make adjustments to best suit your body, interests, and lifestyle. Remember, small steps add up and you need the right fuel for your body to function optimally.

During menstruation

Stick to gentle exercises – your body is working very hard and losing blood during this time. Some exercise and stretching will help alleviate period pains and make sure that menstrual fluid is flowing at a good rate. You may feel tired and drained during this time, honour that your body may need extra rest.

  • Rest!
  • Meditate
  • Gentle yoga, restorative yoga
  • Walks outside
  • Stretching
  • Short cardio work-outs


After menstruation, before ovulation (follicular phase)

You may feel like you have a lot more energy and endurance after your period. It’s time to get back into some higher-energy exercises. Make sure you are eating enough to fuel whatever exercises you’re doing during this time.

  • Dancing
  • Walks and hikes
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Weight-lifting
  • Try something new!

Around ovulation

This is a time when most people will feel absolutely full of energy! You may also feel more social, so plan to do exercises with friends. Once you ovulate, start to slow down and focus on maintaining the levels you’ve reached (versus trying to push harder).

  • Dance with friends
  • Hikes
  • Running or biking with friends
  • Rock climbing
  • Try something new!


After ovulation and before your next period (luteal phase)

After you ovulate, you may feel your energy slowly decreasing. Respect your body and take your exercises down a notch. Be sure to prioritize healthy eating and sleeping well.

  • Yoga
  • Walks and hikes
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Stretching


Remember, these are suggestions. It will take time and patience to learn what works best for you. Here are our quick tips:

  • Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand. Your body can’t benefit from exercise unless it has the right fuel.
  • Exercise with friends or join a class if you struggle to exercise alone. Set up a weekly walk with a friend, bonus points if one of you has a dog that can join!
  • Get outside! Try to exercise outside, many studies show getting outdoors helps with mental and physical health.
  • Consistency is key. Find a routine that works for you and is fun. It will probably take a few cycles to feel a real difference, so keep at it!
  • Rest. Resting is just as important as exercising. Make sure you are allowing your body to recover and avoid burn-out.


I’m exhausted just looking at this!

If you’re tired, make sure to rest and replenish your energy through nutritious foods. We don’t often value rest as much as we should and that can take a toll on your health. To get your energy levels up, try:

  • Avoiding caffeine (it’s masking your body’s needs and not helping)
  • Taking naps
  • Focusing on getting consistent, good sleep
    • Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time
    • Avoid screens an hour before bed
  • Eating whole, fresh foods (check out our article on foods to support the menstrual cycle)
  • Gentle exercises with friends
    • Walks outside
    • Gentle yoga
    • Dance to your favourite song
    • Anything that gets you moving and happy!


You may feel even more tired when you first start taking steps to prioritize rest – that should be temporary as your body replenishes energy stores. Once your energy levels are a bit higher, you can start incorporating more of the exercises listed above throughout your cycle. Listen and be kind to your body.

Don’t have a regular period or it’s stopped for some reason (amenorrhea)?

Firstly, check-in with a medical professional to check out why your period has stopped or is irregular. Follow their advice on how to achieve optimal health. If their advice allows, you can align our suggestions with the moon cycle. That would mean menstruation = new moon/dark moon and ovulation = full moon.

I hope these suggestions help! If you have ideas or questions, please let us know!

Written by: Morgan Ludington

Edited by: Lilypads

Sources

Hill, M. (2019). Period Power. Green Tree.

Karchmer, K. (2019). Seeing Red: The one book every woman needs to read: Period. Tiller Press.

Li, Q. (2018). Into the forest: how trees can help you find health and happiness. Penguin.

Motahari-Tabari, N., Shirvani, M.A., Alipour, A. (2017). Comparison of the effects of stretching exercises and mefenamic acid on the reduction of pain and menstruation characteristics in primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial. Oman Medical Journal 32(1): 47-53. doi: 10.5001/omj.2017.09

Shavandi, N., Taghian, F., Soltani, V. (2010). The effect of isometric exercise on primary dismenorrhea. Journal of Arak University of Medical Sciences 13(1): 71-77. http://jams.arakmu.ac.ir/article-1-472-en.html

Tsai, S. (2016). Effect of yoga exercise on premenstrual symptoms among female employees in Taiwan. International Journal of Research and Public Health 13(7): 721. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13070721
Williams, F. (2017). The Nature Fix: Why nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative. W.W. Norton & Company.

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