Benefits of "That Time of the Month" Through Exercise
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
“Women who are synced on the same menstrual cycle should basically be referred to as gang members. That’s how dangerous they are.”
It is never pleasant to think about or perform physical exercises while menstruating, however, it is done all the time and knowing how to physically train your body during the phases of the month leading up to menstruation is beneficial.
According to author Meredith Hirt and her article written for verywellfit.com, “hormonal changes occur within the body that make it easier to do certain types of exercise with different stages of the month.”
Emi Gutgold is a personal trainer and Pilates instructor. She works with women every day and understands the way hormones play a part in our overall health and well-being. She notes, “Since hormones affect our sleep, appetite, stress, and energy as a whole, they can definitely have an influence on physical training.”
Ms. Hirt goes on to say, “The four main phases that occur during the menstrual cycle are menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Due to varying hormone levels in each phase, it can be beneficial to adapt your exercise routine accordingly. Working out impacts your hormone balance, and additional intention to those workouts can help you lean into the phase your body is currently experiencing.”
Here is Emi Gutgold’s recommendation of exercise during each phase of the month:
Menstruation: During menstruation it can be difficult to follow an exercise routine because progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest which feels like less energy and less motivation. Consider low intensity cardio, yoga, Pilates, sculpt with light weights, swimming, or casual bike ride. Walking is a perfect light cardio exercise at this time of the month.
Follicular: Physical activity during this phase is accompanied by an increase in energy and estrogen levels. Amping up intensity is recommended during this phase. Exercises to consider at this time include HIIT, strength training with heavier weights, and cardio exercises such as running, dancing, jogging, cycling and boxing.
Ovulation: Coming in at a close second for matched energy to the follicular phase, ovulation can feel similar, and you can continue to do all the physical fitness exercises as the follicular phase. In both phases a 30–60-minute aerobic exercise session can stimulate endorphin production which is good for stress relief and mental health. Be aware that you could also experience bloating during the ovulation phase so changing up the exercises here is also recommended.
Luteal: This is the longest phase of the monthly cycle, lasting almost 2 weeks. You might feel close to peak energy as in the follicular and ovulation phases but the increase in progesterone may actually cause some women to feel fatigued. Ms. Gutgold recommends allowing the luteal phase to be one of recovery. According to lunaecollective.com, "the Luteal phase is broken up into the two weeks span":
Early Luteal (first 3-5 days):
"Early morning workouts during this phase is ideal. Use the energy post-ovulation to build lean muscle by increasing resistance and becoming aware to create the mind-muscle connection. Focus on targeting single muscle groups with slow and heavy effort. Engage in deep breathing."
Late Luteal (last 2-4 days)
"Evening workouts are ideal during this phase. At this point hormones are in a slump, and energy drops off significantly. Focus on yoga, easy walking and active rest. Progesterone is plummeting now, and resource depletion is high. Let your breath be your guide. Consider longer held posture work and meditation. Stretching at this time is necessary."
During the luteal phase the body temperature increases and can have an impact on exercising. The risk of cardiovascular strain and exhaustion could play a role in poor exercise performance.
Emi Gutgold advises, “Consider using a cycle tracking app to help reassure you of how you are feeling during each phase of the month. At that point, if you are truly feeling the phases as outlined, consider erring on the side of caution and focus on the recovery rather than pushing yourself too far. Tracking your cycle has the potential to help you be more in touch with your body, which can guide your workout decisions."
Check out this Women's Health website article for cycle tracking apps:
11 Best Period Tracker Apps For 2022, According To Ob-Gyns (womenshealthmag.com)
Also, work on balancing your hormones through diet. Avoid excess sugar, alcohol, spicy foods, and eating out of plastic containers. The 5 best foods to eat for a better period include brussel sprouts, yogurt, beets, eggs, and sunflower seeds.
Let your trainer know the phases you are in each workout so that he/she can design that day’s session to your body’s advantage.