Exercising while on your period: Why it’s good for you
TL/DR: Working out on your period doesn’t have to suck. Try a 15-minute gentle yoga flow on day one, tone your whole body with a low-impact mat class on day two, and get in some FUN cardio with a hip-hop dance class on day three (plus, booty band day & an easy all-walking treadmill workout).
We’ve all been there: Your period shows up and, all of a sudden, that 7:00 a.m. live-streamed HIIT class you promised to do with your bestie is sounding almost as brutal as solo-climbing Mount Everest. Burpees and period cramps don’t always mesh – and we’re speaking from experience.
However, if you’ve been using your menstrual cycle as an excuse to skip the gym since, well, forever, keep on reading. As it turns out, physical activity during your period can actually be helpful. But, how does exercise help period cramps? The endorphins your body releases can lessen period pain, decrease bloating, relieve digestive discomfort, and boost your mood.1
Some people experience unusually severe pain or cramping during their period due to conditions like PCOS or endometriosis. If this sounds like you, and you’re wondering if you should workout on your period anyway, listen to your body and stick with gentle stretches or short walks around the block.
Most menstruators feel the worst during the first day or two of bleeding (when prostaglandin levels are at their highest).2 Keep this in mind as you plan out your weekly schedule and use the first couple days of your period to focus on restorative self-care.
However: There’s no reason you can’t keep up with your usual high-intensity workouts during menstruation if you’re feeling up for it. Your usual 7-mile run, aerobic exercise or hour-long strength training routine are totally doable, even on heavy days. Just remember to hydrate, take breaks, and call it quits (and contact your doctor) if you’re feeling lightheaded or if pain increases.
Now that you know what to expect, here are five super simple, fun, and low-impact workouts to try on your period. Most of these require little to no equipment and all of them can be done indoors – so no more weather-related excuses! Try them in order, one workout per day, or mix it up with whatever suits your mood. Get ready to kick period pain to the curb with these feel-good, full-body routines.
20-minute gentle period yoga flow
Equipment needed: A yoga mat or exercise mat (optional)
Best for: Alleviating cramps & reducing stress
On period day one, it’s normal to feel like all your energy has been sucked out by the menstrual gods. That outdoor spin class you were planning to take? Not sounding so great. Instead, scale things back with a 20-minute gentle yoga class that focuses on improving balance and flexibility.
YouTube-famous instructor Yoga with Adriene walks you through a series of positions to relieve period cramps. Forward folds, low back openers, and floor-based stretches are particularly helpful to relieve stress and help you feel more grounded in your body, despite your protesting uterus.
Yoga for Period Cramps
Another benefit of doing (gentle) yoga on your period? Stretching out your lower back and abdominal muscles may reduce cramping.3 If you want to incorporate yoga into your daily menstrual routine, try alternating a few minutes of cat and cow pose, cobra pose, corpse pose, and child’s pose as these are great positions to help period cramps.
20-minute no-equipment low impact full-body workout
Equipment needed: A yoga mat or exercise mat (optional)
Best for: Toning your whole body & improving circulation
It’s a full-body workout that’s equipment-free AND has no squats! So you can save that glute burn for day 4 (booty band day FTW). Since lots of jumps can be no bueno on your period, we picked out a low-impact strength workout that’s easy to adapt for all levels. Vlogger Abby Pollock guides you through a HIIT routine that zeroes in on legs and abs – without putting unnecessary strain on your knees or back.
Abby recommends doing a quick warmup before tackling this 20-minute set, so take a 5-minute walk, jog, or do a few yoga stretches to loosen up your body ahead of time. Some of the best stretches for period cramps include yoga positions such as bound angle pose, inverted leg pose, and the head-to-knee pose.
30-minute low impact cardio dance workout
Equipment needed: None (break out the speakers and do it in your bedroom)
Best for: Boosting your mood & loosening up achy muscles
Sometimes, music is the best cure for period blahs. If Cardi is your muse, don’t skip this next workout. It’s a 30-minute cardio dance class with pro choreographer Mike Peele (creator of #HipHopFit) that’s all about getting loose and owning your body. Kind of like learning a TikTok dance, except zero pressure to look good on camera.
You’ll feel a huge improvement in your mood thanks to all the cardio-induced endorphins – and the soundtrack alone is enough to help you forget your cramps and PMS-induced anxiety.
12-minute booty band & resistance band workout
Best for: Sculpting that ass & feeling like a badass
Booty day is here, and it’s only 12 minutes. If you want to get that butt in top form but don’t want to go anywhere near a staircase, pick up a set of resistance bands and make this workout a part of your usual period routine.
@TheBritainSnowEffect crushes it in her kitchen with a set of bands you can buy at Target for under $30 (stock up on Flex®, while you’re at it). You’ll feel the burn, for sure, but it’s short enough to power through – even on a heavier day.
Get in some jump squats, lunges, and glute abductions for whole-booty gains you’ll notice pretty much immediately. All the more reason to live in your favorite pair of leggings ‘til your period is over.
30-minute treadmill incline intervals (walking only)
Equipment needed: Treadmill with adjustable incline
Best for: Busting bloat & reenergizing your body
If you love a cardio sweat sesh but the idea of running on your period is less than enticing, try this 30-minute interval-based walking treadmill workout. It almost feels like cheating – like, it’s just walking, how hard can it be? But you’ll still get plenty sweaty and reap the benefits of all those endorphins when you’re done. Plus, by getting excess water out of your system, you’ll feel less bloated and way more energized post-workout to take on the rest of your day.
Our favorite part of this treadmill incline routine is that you can customize it to fit your mood and energy level. So, no video here: just queue up your own favorite Spotify playlist or podcast, adjust your speed and incline to whatever feels good, and focus on 3, 2, 1.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Start out with a 5-minute warmup: Set your treadmill incline to 2 and your speed to 3.0 mph.
- (At the 5:00-minute mark) First 3-minute interval: Increase your incline to 4 and keep your speed at 3.0 mph.
- (At the 8:00-minute mark) First 2-minute interval: Increase your incline to 6 and your speed to 3.5 mph.
- (At the 10:00-minute mark) First 1-minute interval: Increase your incline to 8 and keep your speed at 3.5 mph (feel free to increase your incline up to 10 or higher and your speed up to 4.0 mph if you’re feeling bold).
- (At the 11:00-minute mark): Keep repeating the 3-minute, 2-minute, and 1-minute intervals until you reach minute 29:00 of your workout. Then, bring your incline all the way down to zero and your speed down to 2.8mph. Cool down for at least one minute or more. Hop off that treadmill, stretch out your glutes and hamstrings, and give yourself a pat on the back. Cardio, check!
This article is informational only and is not offered as medical advice, nor does it substitute for a consultation with your physician. If you have any gynecological/medical concerns or conditions, please consult your physician.
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