We all know the feeling. Should we listen to our bodies, just eat chocolate and lay on the couch all day? or should we keep up our exercise and health routine?
Let’s Start with Some Facts…
During our period, our progesterone [calming hormone] and oestrogen [stimulating hormone] levels are at their lowest, which is why we can feel lethargic and lack motivation to do any exercise. Many women skip working at this time of the month but there is no reason as to why we should.
Should we be Exercising?
In short… yes. During exercise neurotransmitters in our brain, endorphins, are released and studies have shown that they interact with receptors in our brain to reduce our perception of pain, having an effect similar to morphine (1). They are also known to boost your mood so exercise can actually be useful in relieving two of the most common menstrual symptoms (2).
What exercise should we be doing?
The type of exercise that you should be conducting actually varies with what stage of your cycle you are in.
Beginning of period - strength training – studies have shown that during the first few days of your period, your strength actually increases, compared to the end. This is because the levels of progesterone are lower. If you are into strength training it may be beneficial to include your cycles into your workout programme to make use out of your increased strength (3).
End of Period - Cardio – During the second phase of your period, studies have shown that your lung capacity actually increases, so it is better to do more cardiovascular exercises during this phase (4). This does include light walking, which may be a better option when you are feeling under the weather.
If you do struggle with cramps and discomfort during your period, don’t be hard on yourself! Just try and move a little more, whether this be just a light walk or a low intensity yoga class. Periods can be a pretty uncomfortable time for many of us, so it is better to focus on the exercises that feel right for you.
Just listen to your body! If you are feeling weak, cut down on the weight lifting. If you are feeling light headed, don’t engage in strenuous cardiovascular exercises. Try to move a little bit and see how you feel, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel great.
P.s. Eating chocolate is also known to release endorphins… so if you don’t feel like working out, just eat chocolate instead? (But you didn’t get that advice from me).