Should you work out during your period?

What actually happens when you work out during your period? Here's what to know

Woman stretching while practicing yoga in park. Should you work out during your period?
(Image credit: Getty)

Should you work out during your period? It’s an age-old question that we often hear conflicting answers to, so which actually is it: yay or nay?

Most women will remember using your time of the month as the perfect excuse to skip gym class in high school. (We're definitely guilty!) But while we know the obvious reasons why exercising may not feel ideal when you’re on your periods—jumping up and down while you’re bleeding as your uterus shreds isn’t exactly comfortable—it is, in fact, true that exercising could help us feel better. 

Doing cardio or any type of ab exercise may be living hell for those of us who get bad menstrual cramps, but according to science working out could be the ultimate pain relief. Here’s why you should absolutely get your best yoga mats out and work out while on your period... 

Why you should work out during your period

We’ll be the first to admit that eating chocolate while curled up in a ball with our hot water bottle is the preferred way to deal with the first day of our period. That, and maybe a hormonal cry triggered by a cute scene in our favorite Reese Witherspoon rom-com, or a moment of rage at whatever mundane thing has irritated us that day. Both offer a sense of relief, much like the ibuprofen that helps soothe our cramps. 

However, believe it or not, there are multiple benefits to exercising during your period that could make those often dreaded few days a bit more bearable, all thanks to endorphins. 

Endorphins are brain chemicals with pain-relieving and pleasure-inducing powers that exercising releases. Yep, through exercise, you release endorphins which increase your levels of dopamine (your feel-good chemical), all while relieving pain at the same time. 

But that’s not all—as stated by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercising helps improve your overall mood. This is due to the aforementioned increase in dopamine levels, so if you're feeling sad, depressed, or struggling with mood swings, exercise is a great way to combat those feelings and lift your spirits. 

"During your period, your mood can often feel low, and exercise helps to boost your happy factor," says Mel Stoodley, Fitness Instructor and owner of Believe and Achieve Activewear

Young woman, with braided hair and sportswear, running on a urban bridge

(Image credit: Getty)

What type of workouts should you do during your period?

The kind of exercise you do can also make all the difference. For example, stretching can do wonders as it extends muscles that may feel especially tense while you’re on your period, so doing things like yoga or an online pilates class, both of which include a lot of gentle stretching, is a perfect option. "Moderate aerobic exercises can help to reduce bloating and help with menstrual cramps," explains Stoodley. 

Try it out next time you’re on your period... after you’ve had your chocolate and moments of justified self-pity, of course!

Should you exercise if you get cramps?

As explained by Stoodley, doing exercises like yoga and pilates can actually help reduce cramps. However, she advises that you always listen to your body and do what feels right. "If you are more fatigued than normal, during your period, ease back on the intensity and avoid inversions such as headstands. Do whatever feels good." 

If your body isn't feeling up to it, then skipping your workouts during your period is what you should do! But if you're worried about exercise making you feel worse during your period, don't fret because as research suggests, it can only do good. "All in all, exercise during your period will have a positive effect on your body and mind," says Stoodley.

Sagal Mohammed

Sagal is a journalist, specialising in lifestyle, pop culture, fashion and beauty.  She has written for a number of publications including Vogue, Glamour, Stylist, Evening Standard, Bustle, You Magazine, Dazed and Wonderland to name a few.