Wondering if you should exercise during your period … or if exercise could actually reduce or eliminate your cramps?
We’ve got answers to these questions and more in this article. Let’s get started:
1. Can exercise help relieve menstrual cramps?
The research is in and it says, “yes, exercise can definitely help relieve menstrual cramps.”
Here’s what one study said: aquatic exercise “significantly” lessened the severity of menstrual cramps. The study involved 20 young women aged 18 to 25 years old who did aquatic exercise for 1 hour three times a week over the course of two periods (3 months) while another 20 women did nothing extra for their cramps. (Source: Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2013 Sep;18(5):378-83.)
2. Could exercise make my period cramps worse?
Experts say that no, exercise will not make menstrual cramps worse. However, please be aware that if you have a calcium or magnesium deficiency, your muscles could “tense up” during exercise.
3. Are there any reasons why I should not exercise with menstrual cramps?
No, in fact, exercise should not be stopped just for cramps. By exercising, you will drive more beneficial oxygen to muscles and you will also release endorphins which will make you feel better.
4. What are the best exercises for menstrual cramps?
Exercises that target the abdominal muscles are particularly good as these are the muscles involved in cramping. Here are four exercises you can do:
1. Go for a 15-minute walk. While walking, contract your abdominals and hold for 5 seconds, then release. Aim for at least one strong contraction every minute.
2. Get in a sit-up position on the floor with your knees bent. Clasp your knees to your chest and hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.
3. In that same sit-up position, bring the soles of your feet together. Then move your legs up and down slowly, feeling the contraction in your abdominals. Aim for one minute of contractions.
4. Select an abdominal machine at the health club and start out with a low weight and do 12 reps. Increase the weight 10 pounds and do 10 reps. Increase the weight another 10 pounds and do 8 reps. Finally, increase the weight 10 more pounds and do 6 reps. Rest for one minute in between repetitions.
5. Are there any breathing exercises that are good for menstrual cramps?
Yes, get in a comfortable position, take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Repeat 4-5 times. You can alter this breathing exercise by exhaling as completely as possible, or by increasing your reps. Breathing exercises help slow down the body and relax you.
6. Are Yoga exercises good for menstrual cramps?
Yes, according to researchers at the Department of Midwifery at Islamic Azad University, yoga is not only helpful for period cramps but actually might have the best exercises for menstrual cramps.
In their study, which focused on young women aged 18 to 22, the 50 women who exercised with the cobra pose, cat pose and fish pose significantly reduced the severity and duration of their menstrual cramps, compared to those who did not do these exercises. (Source: J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2011 Aug;24(4):192-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2011.01.059. Epub 2011 Apr 21.)
7. Are there any stretching exercises that are good for menstrual cramps?
Yes, stretching, particularly the area where you are experiencing cramps, can help relieve the pain.
Stretching works the muscle and drives oxygen to it, oxygen is a painkiller.
If you have cramps in your abdominal area or your back:
Lie on the floor with your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Place your legs against the wall. Spread them apart as far as you can and hold the position for as long as possible.
For cramps in your back, sit on a chair and reach forward to clasp your ankles, almost as if you are trying to tie your shoes. Hold this position for as long as possible.