Should you continue to workout during your period?

One of the most frequently asked questions amongst women is the safety or dangers associated with working out during your period. Generally, speaking, it’s not uncommon to have people advise you to avoid working out. Well meaning folks will always tell you it is a time to get some rest and relax, without putting your body through any strains and stresses. While it is not bad advice, the truth is having your period does not have to mean a forced stop to your exercise routine. You don’t have to deliberately take a break from your exercise routine, because if your body is willing, getting a little exercise has proven benefits that are bound to help you.

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When Kiran Gandhi ran the 2015 London Marathon while on her period, she made the news for doing so without using a tampon. She dedicated her run to the lack of awareness about women who do not have access to feminine products, and to encourage women to break taboos and embarrassment associated with bleeding every month.

Social stigma and myths that forbid you from physically exerting yourself aside, science will tell you that a moderate workout during your period is actually good for you. Here are four reasons why:

1. Endorphins: if there is one reason to continue exercising, let it be this. Endorphins, or happy hormones as the are commonly referred to, are released in abundance when you engage in cardiovascular activity, keeping your mood uplifted, light and happy.

2. Pain-relief: in many cases, a light workout that involves moderate movement and cardiovascular activity actually helps relieve some period-related pain.

3. Sweat it out: sweating out the excess fluids during your period helps considerably reduce the discomfort and belly-bloat caused by water-retention that is common during the time.

4. It’s the best time: hormonally speaking, this is a plum time to get your sweat on. The drastic drop in estrogen and progesterone levels enables your body to cut through carbohydrates and glycogen at a faster rate, actually giving your body a boost in energy to push itself and work harder.

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Having said that, here’s a few tips to workout right through the month:

1. Listen to your body

Your body is constantly giving you signs, watch for them and listen carefully. In the run up to your period, if you feel tired, exhausted and like your body needs to rest, there is no shame in taking it easy. Choose a lighter form of exercise, go out for a leisurely walk instead of a run, for example. Try a low-impact variant instead of a strenuous high-impact routine. Whatever you choose, stick to a comfortable activity and do not introduce your body to a new one during this time.

2. Be prepared

Working out during your period comes with the obvious concerns of leaking, spotting or staining your clothes and workout gear. The inconvenience is the biggest deterrent and you can prepare yourself by using a menstrual cup or a tampon, known to cause less leaks than sanitary napkins or panty liners. Choose a product that suits your best, double up on protection if you need to. Make sure you are comfortably dressed. Many women feel bloated and uncomfortable during their period. It helps to wear loose, comfortable clothing that will make it easier to breathe through the workout without feeling stifled.

3. Stretching helps

Whatever routine you may choose, remember to stretch before and after your workout. Your muscles, especially in the abdomen/core area, may be extra contracted during this time, so a good, gentle stretch will help ease your body into workout mode.

4. Light cardio

A light cardio session when you are on your period is actually the best form of exercise you could choose. Step aerobics, pilates, 30 minutes on the treadmill, a brisk walk outdoors, a quick swim, some light weights are all great options. But remember, listen to your body and choose well, refraining from forcing your body into a workout it doesn’t naturally want to perform.

5. Stay hydrated

Keeping a bottle of water close at hand is crucial. Take care to hydrate yourself more than you normally would, when you are working out during your period. This will help avoid muscular dehydration that could cause pain and discomfort post-workout.

The only reason for you to interrupt your workout regimen at any point of the month should be if you are not feeling up to it. Whether you are on or off your period, listen to the cues your body is giving you. If you are having an easy month, with a hassle-free period, chances are the inconvenience will be minimal and you can go right ahead and continue to workout. Rest assured that the exercise will only do you good. On the other hand, if you are having a hard month with cramping or more pain than usual, go with the flow and take it easy. A lighter form of exercise, or a couple of rest days is not really going to make a difference to your fitness goals. Either way, don’t let your period stop you from hitting the gym.

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