Can women exercise on their period?
While exercising during your period might be the very last thing you feel like doing, there are a stack of reasons why it’s a really good idea.
Exercise improves blood circulation in the pelvic area, meaning less menstrual pain. It also boosts your overall mood so you can better cope with whatever your cycle throws at you.
Going to the gym during a painful period might be a tall order, of course, but there are plenty of other alternatives. A long walk, a gentle swim or some yoga stretches can ease discomfort and help you feel a lot more positive. In a study of top female athletes, while nearly three out of four said they felt worse just before menstruation, 63 per cent said that their pain decreased during training . A workout or physical activity will also make you feel better overall, as exercise stimulates endorphin production in your body. These feel-good hormones not only relieve the symptoms of PMS, they improve your sleep too.
Exercise can also help with that bloated feeling you get during your period. Did you know that it’s not unusual for women to take on five to 10 extra pounds of water during their cycle ? This bloat isn’t helped by over-indulging cravings for unhealthy foods that are common when you’re premenstrual. Apart from potentially leaving you feeling self-conscious and out of shape, too much sugary and fatty food will also leave you low in mood and energy. But when you sweat – like after a good workout – water leaves the body, relieving the bloat. Plus your mood’s boosted, you’ve got way more energy and you feel 100 per cent better about yourself.
Did you know?
Worried about leakage, slippage or chafing? Don’t be. When exercising during your period, wear a towel that is super-absorbent and moulds to your body shape. Just make sure you shower and change your protection – and underwear – afterwards, so menstrual odour isn’t an issue.
If you suffer from extremely heavy periods (menorrhagia), it’s probably best to skip the kickboxing class during your heaviest flow. Instead, try to stay physically active with a brisk walk or bike ride. And if you work out at home on your own, make sure to include some downward-facing moves that will help relieve menstrual cramps.
Exercising on your period – dispelling the myths
Truth: Provided you don’t overdo it, exercising during your period is not only safe, but it’s also good for you.
Truth: It’s actually just water retention, which disappears by the time your period starts. 
Truth: Nope. But you do if you exercise in the luteal phase of your cycle, just before your period. 
Exercise beyond periods: workout ideas for every phase of your menstrual cycle
Phase one: ‘strength’ or ‘bleed’ phase (day 1 to 5)
One of the trickiest times to keep exercising is during the ‘strength’ or ‘bleed’ phase in our cycle (days 1 to 5), when our uterus sheds its lining.
During this phase, progesterone and oestrogen levels are at their lowest, which, along with menstrual flow, may bring some extra tiredness into our lives. Not to mention pesky period cramps which could get in your way too.
But there’s no need to push yourself too hard! Gentle activities like yoga, swimming, and walking are good options during your period. You can also try doing some light body stretches to help with any cramps. And remember, exercise produces endorphins— happy hormones that are great for keeping period blues away!
Phase two: ‘power’ or ‘peak’ phase (day 5 to 14)
Day 5 to 14 of our menstrual cycle is the ‘Power’ or ‘Peak’ phase, where our uterus lining has been restored and we’re at our most fertile.
You’ll feel strong and energised as oestrogen levels rise, leading up to ovulation. So now’s the time to give the extra mile at the gym or even take the plunge with some boot camp workouts or high-intensity training.
Oestrogen also increases the blood flow to the brain and raises the levels of other hormones in the body, including serotonin – another happiness hormone, that makes you feel alert, strong, and keen to go out and do your best.
Phase three: ‘endurance’ or ‘burn’ phase (day 14 to 22)
Days 14 to 22 refer to the ovulation phase when one of the follicles in the ovaries releases an egg into the fallopian tube towards the uterus.
During this phase your body produces lots of hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, increasing your metabolic rate (this is the amount of energy used over a specific period of time). Having a faster metabolism means that you’ll be able to burn more calories during activities and at rest.
So you could try aerobic exercises or endurance activities like longer-distance running. Or if you’ve ever wanted to take up a dance class, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for!
Phase four: ‘fighting’ phase (day 23 to 28)
From day 23 to 28 of our cycle, we’re in the ‘fighting’ phase, also known as ‘pre-menstrual’ (PMS), where our oestrogen and serotonin levels drastically drop. The empty follicle left in the ovary after an egg has been released produces hormones that thicken the womb lining in preparation for a baby.
During this phase, if you don’t get pregnant, raising progesterone levels can leave you feeling frazzled, stressed-out, and generally at odds with the world. Some of us retain more water, and others get cramps and aches, so it can be tough to get motivated around this time of the cycle.
Trying gentle exercises could be worth it to help you get through these days. They’ll increase your endorphin levels, helping you feel a lot better and more able to cope with PMS symptoms like fatigue.
The best products for period exercise
Some of the most common reasons for not exercising during our period is worrying about possible discomfort from wearing period products, or menstrual blood staining our clothes. Knowing how to choose the right product and being prepared is the best way to tackle this!
But which type of period product should you go for specifically? Let’s take a look…
Exercising with pads
If you’re used to wearing pads and feel most comfortable with them, pick the ones with an absorbency level that matches your flow that day. For example, if you know you’re going to have heavy bleeding for the first two days of your period, opt for products designed especially for heavy flow. Try to go for the ones with wings, as this will help prevent the towel from slipping away while exercising, especially if you’re doing sports like cycling or running, and are sweating a lot.
You could try pads like our Libresse V-Protection Ultra+ Sanitary Towels with Wings so that you can exercise with comfort and confidence.
Exercising with tampons
While you can use tampons when doing any kind of exercise, they’re particularly helpful for water sports such as swimming. That’s because they’re worn completely inside your body, keeping your flow from coming out so you can swim with ease regardless of your period.
If you’ve never used tampons before, wearing them can be a bit overwhelming at first. But once you get the hang of how to apply and remove them, it gets a lot easier. Remember to take deep breaths and try to relax — like with most things in life, wearing tampons is just a matter of practice!
Exercising with menstrual cups
If you are exploring tampons as an option for exercising while on your period, you could also try a menstrual cup. Made of medical grade silicone, it is soft and squishy and sits inside your vagina. So – much like a tampon – if you insert it correctly, you won’t even feel it!
Menstrual cups are also reusable and hold up to three times as much flow as a regular tampon, making it easier for you to focus on your exercise for longer periods of time.
Exercising with period pants
Another option for great comfort and flexibility is period pants. They are washable, reusable, and look just like your regular underwear – giving you freedom to move while being kinder to the planet.
intimawear by LibresseTM period pants are made with moisture-wicking fabric and super-absorbent materials that can hold menstrual blood and other fluids (even sweat!). So, you can feel confident and let your body do its thing – while your period pants do the rest.
At the end of the day, working out around your cycle is all about listening to your body. So do what feels right for you, stay hydrated, focus on building healthy habits, and remember that any kind of exercise – even if it’s just a gentle stretch – is good for your health in the long run.
If you notice you feel exhausted while working out, try not to push yourself too hard. It’s alright to hit pause and reset. Remember that sometimes, self-care also means allowing yourself to stop, rest, and recover — it’s not the Olympics, after all!
If you’d like to continue exploring, learn more about swimming on your period and find out what period product is best to deal with heavy flows.