Exercise and your Menstrual Cycle

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‘We want to be endlessly productive, energised, and consistent. But our bodies just don't run on an every-day-is-the-same kind of model. And ignoring that is costing us. Big time. When you don't understand your female body, you don't know how to live in tune with her. And so you end up getting frustrated, burning out, or feeling completely overwhelmed.' -  Jodie Milton


As women, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we need to be busy and giving to others consistently.  However, our bodies are just not designed to operate that way. Our body naturally goes through energetic changes throughout our menstrual cycle and there is good reason why our bodies slow down at certain times of the month. Women hold the special ability to create new life.  A woman’s body is constantly cleansing and preparing for the inevitability of having to sustain a baby.  There is a lot going on in the body of a woman throughout her cycle each and every month.


It is understandable then that we will feel differently throughout our menstrual cycle as the body cycles through these natural changes and preparations. It is also understandable then that our energy will change as our hormones fluctuate.  As our energy shifts, we will of course find that we prefer to move in particular ways depending on our energetic nature and our exercise choices will undoubtedly need to adjust accordingly. It is important to listen to your body and allow yourself to slow down at times to avoid burn out on all levels, particularly physically.


So how do we know which kind of exercise to do during our menstrual cycle?


According to Dr Shania Lee the best way to exercise throughout your menstrual cycle is to follow the natural rhythm of your body.


  1. During the menstrual phase one’s energy is low and we may feel withdrawn. This is a good time to rest and restore. During your period, your hormones are at their lowest, which means you'll often feel withdrawn, internal, and reflective. Your body is also busy shedding your endometrium (the innermost layer of your uterus), and that may leave you feeling more tired than usual.


That makes this phase all about easing up on your schedule and slowing down. It is perfect time to reflect, journal and go inwards through meditation. Restorative yoga and gentle walking are ideal forms of exercise during this time. Give yourself full permission to rest and recharge.


John Thoppil suggests that ‘the best exercise during your period is...the one you feel like doing!’


  1. During the follicular phase oestrogen is dominating and you are more insulin-sensitive. This is typically a time of high energy and a willingness to try new things. It is suggested that exercise at this time should be more cardio-focused and high intensity weight training is recommended.


  1. During the luteal phase oestrogen is lower and progesterone is higher and your energy is likely to be average. Gentle cardio, yoga, Pilates and hiking are highly recommended during this time. If none of these appeal to you then short burst HITT sessions would also work well during this phase.


No matter which exercise you choose, remember that any form of movement is highly beneficial for your wellness and can really help to balance your hormones, particularly if done outside in nature. Listen to your body, it really does know best and try to add a lot more movement to your day in whatever form your body is needing.  If you struggle with menstrual cramps, exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation associated with period cramping, so choose a form of movement that feels good to you specifically and do it regularly.


Brandon Marcello, PhD says, ’because exercise gives you a natural endorphin high, it can elevate your mood and actually make you feel better.’  He believes one of the main benefits of exercise while on your period is the endorphin release.  Endorphins are a natural painkiller and when they release during exercise, you may feel relief from uncomfortable periods.


Always seek the guidance of a healthcare provider, as excess exercise can be counterproductive!

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