Good intentions or not: sports and menstruation aren’t necessarily best friends. Is it a good idea to rise from the comfortable couch when you’re on your period or is it better to take five and lie down? Let’s put some insights together.
It’s good for the muscles
According to running experts, a good timing is essential in benefiting from a work-out. In the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, so from the first day of your period, the estrogen scale is higher. Estrogen makes sure muscle cells suffer less from a training and recover more quickly.
It eases the pain
There’s another reason to go to the gym while menstruating: it eases the pain. Several studies show that women suffer less from menstrual pain and cramps when they go for a work-out. Whether this is a psychological or physical effect is a topic of debate. Dutch former professional cyclist Leontien van Moorsel said she actually prefers to menstruate during an important match, because her pain threshold is higher.
Most professional athletes, however, complain about the negative impact of their menstruation. Tennis player Heather Lawson blamed her loss in the first round of the Australian Open in 2015 to ‘women’s issues’. Another tennis player, Tara Moore, acknowledged this and said she hoped her monthly periods didn’t occur when she had a big tournament. Paula Radcliffe, a runner who holds the world record in marathons, told she specifically made sure she wasn’t menstruating during an important race.
It can deregulate your cycle
A lot of professional athletes are bothered by menstruation and take the contraceptive pill to regulate it. Or they don’t get their period at all because of intensive training. The fat percentage of athletes and ballet dancers is low, which stops the menstruation. Also, during a training the hormone endorphin is produced, which confuses the pituitary, the part of your brain that regulates hormones. Too much sport can have serious consequences for the menstrual cycle. Besides: the blood loss decreases the iron in your blood, which could make you feel weak and dizzy. Not the best moment for a work-out.
So, what to do?
Should you work out during your menstruation or not? Of course, the only correct answer is: it’s your decision. Exercise is healthy, also when you’re menstruating, but you should only do it when you feel well. Suffering from a little dip? Get over it, go for a run or a swim. But don’t overdo it. Just some stretching can alleviate the pain, or a walk with the dog. That stimulates the production of endorphin, a natural painkiller, and limits the production of prostaglandins, that causes the contractions of the uterus. If necessary, take some precautionary measures: leave the white yoga pants at home and pick the darker one to cover up potential stains. Wear a good bra to support your sensitive breasts. Do you really feel too tired? Listen to your body. Because one organ is already working out: your uterus.
eriod! is an independent, online magazine about all aspects of menstruation. Period! is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you’re suffering from medical complaints, always visit your doctor or GP. Editorial articles can contain affiliate links. Sponsored collaborations can be found in the category Spotlight. Do you have any questions? Check our contact page.