Do you like to flow on your flow? Hit the road for a run? Or curl up around a hot water bottle? Our guest blogger Ashley Linkletter takes us on a tour of sweatin' while bleedin'.
Let’s face it: Exercise is often the last thing on your mind when you’re menstruating or dealing with an intense case of PMS. If you’re experiencing debilitating cramps, severe bloating, hormone-induced sadness or irritability, a tension headache, or excessive fatigue your instinct might be to stay in those cozy pajamas with a heating pad and call it a day (which is a perfectly wonderful way to practice self-care, make no mistake). However, movement can also function as both physical and emotional self-care when performed with love; no gym membership required!
The benefits of exercising before and during your period
- Get those endorphins flowing: Low mood? No energy? It may seem counterintuitive, but creating movement when you’re feeling down is a fantastic way to boost your endorphin levels. Endorphins create a natural euphoric feeling and may help with pain associated with period cramps.
- Improve blood circulation: Aerobic exercise has been shown to have a significant positive effect on symptoms associated with PMS and menstruation. The same study also found that exercise helps to reduce stress levels—which have been shown to increase uterine cramping—in addition to meditation, listening to music, and self-hypnosis.
- Reduce bloat: If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal distress before or during your period (a very common occurrence) light exercise is an effective way to find relief from uncomfortable gassiness and cramping.
Rethinking exercise on your period
Whether you’re a regular gym-goer, an avid yoga student, a competitive athlete, or a dedicated dog walker it’s important to consider what feels good to you when you’re menstruating or just about to start your period. Wear comfortable, loose clothing whenever possible—no one likes the feeling of tight spandex when they’re feeling bloated and tender—and be selective about the type of movement that interests you. For some individuals, a short but effective HIIT (high intensity interval training) session might feel best. But for others, some fresh air and a walk around the block could be exactly what you need.
Exercise as a form of self-love
Exercise should, ideally, always be an act of self-care but this is especially important when you might be experiencing low self-esteem, physical discomfort, and/or hormonally exacerbated depression. Some particularly gentle forms of movement to consider include the following:
- Yoga: A loving yoga practice can help relieve cramps and bloating in addition to being an incredibly relaxing way to move your body. For many years, inverted poses have been considered dangerous to practice during menstruation. Recently, this rule has been mostly debunked (most experts suggest that people listen to their bodies as they practice, rather than relying on outdated and contradictory information).
- Dance: Energizing and cathartic, dancing is equally as fun in your living room as it is when you’re out with friends. All you need for a private dance party is your favourite music and, well, that’s it!
- Walking: Walking is a great a great way to get in some movement when you have your period. It’s free and can be done outdoors or, if you prefer, on a treadmill. If you’re someone who gets bored when they’re out walking, remember that walking is the perfect time to get lost in your own thoughts or to catch up on a favourite podcast or audiobook.