Do you tend to avoid the gym and curl up on the couch during that time of the month? If so, you're certainly not alone. Yes, you might feel tired and a bit crampy, but if your menstrual symptoms aren't debilitating, there's really no reason to skip your normal activities. In fact, some experts say that working out during your period might actually help to ease some of those common pains.
"Generally speaking, there is no danger in exercising while on your period," said Rachel High, D.O., an OB-GYN and fellow at Baylor Scott & White Health in Central Texas. "The only women who I'd recommend avoid exercise during menstrual cycles are women who have heavy menstrual bleeding with anemia or increasingly heavy cycles or experience other symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat at rest or feeling faint."
I'm one of the lucky ones in that I usually only experience occasional mild cramps, which have never literally stopped me in my tracks or caused me to skip a workout. In fact, I had my period when I ran my personal-best marathon time (3:49 at the Chevron Houston Marathon) two years ago. I've found that if I put mind over matter and treat those days like any other days of the month, I easily forget about any mild discomfort and the workouts really feel like just another day's activity.
According to High, while there is little research regarding exercise and its effects on menstrual pain, current research indicates that easy-paced running on a treadmill as well as low-impact exercises like yoga and Pilates can improve unpleasant menstrual symptoms such as pain and emotional changes. So even if you might not feel up to doing your usual hour-long run or Spin class, doing a different activity and taking it easy are still more likely to help than to hurt.
Lastly, don't forget to stay hydrated. "The uterus has a large muscle component, and menstrual cramps are worsened with dehydration, so be sure to drink water and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen if needed," High said.