Imagine this scenario (actually, it won't be too hard to imagine, we reckon): you've got your favorite exercise class booked, but that godforsaken time of month hath struck your uterus and you're otherwise debilitated. While you've heard that exercise might alleviate PMS symptoms, you're tired, crampy, kinda pissed, and not really feelin' it. Should you push yourself?
"Listen to your body," says Liz Letchford, personal trainer, MS, ATC, and PhD candidate. She recommends taking a breather if you're really not feeling great. "[Your period] is a time of introspection. Don't push through fatigue; it's your body's way of telling you to take a break."
Let's say you're not feeling that bad, but you've still got your concerns. As a trainer, Liz gives you the go-ahead. "It's totally OK to still work out, just don't feel like you have to push yourself to achieve the same level of performance as when you're not menstruating." Sounds good to us — we can hit up that class and maybe just take it easy. No beast mode for us today!
We got the perspective of a women's health doctor, as well — Stephanie Long, MD from One Medical in San Francisco. "You should definitely still exercise," she said. She enforced to us that it's totally safe medically for you to get a good sweat sesh in during your cycle. "There are no restrictions from a medical perspective."
Dr. Long did warn, however, about women with heavier periods. If you get dizzy or lightheaded during that time of the month, you "may need to be careful with activity that could worsen that, like hot yoga." Nama-stay cool, friends. "Those patients should also consider a visit with a provider to start a birth control methods to lighten their periods and prevent blood loss, as well as identify any other causes for excess bleeding — fibroids, etc."
Speaking of yoga, Liz brought up a point that many yogis may already have heard: "Don't go upside down!" As in, maybe skip the tripod headstand in this week's flow (both Vinyasa flow and . . . well, you know). "In certain yoga practices, inversions during menstruation are thought to put women at risk for 'retrograde flow,' which halts the natural downward flow of the body during this time," said Liz. "Some teachers fear this may lead to endometriosis."
But she and Dr. Long both emphasized that there's no scientific proof around this. Dr. Long said while there isn't hard evidence, "There is much we haven't studied in medicine and things we can likely learn from Eastern philosophies." So . . . maybe better safe than sorry on this one? The jury's out, for now.
Take it easy, but don't be afraid to tackle your favorite boot camp or dance class if you're feeling up for it. That rush of endorphins will feel pretty darn good, and you can always refuel with some chocolate milk. Mmmm, chocolate.