Why you should exercise when you're on your period

We swear it's worth it!

By Alex Lilly
When it's that time of the month, a lot of us just want to crawl up into a ball and eat our weight in chocolate.
Exercising is always good for your body and mind regardless, but did you know that exercising on your period actually has a lot of benefits?
We chatted to personal trainer Ella Martyn about how to up your workout game depending on your menstrual cycle and why we should get up and get moving even when we don't feel like it.
Personal trainer Ella is here to answer your questions on exercising at that time of the month. (Image: Supplied)

Benefits of exercising on your period

Aside from increased strength and muscle gains, as well as those feel-good hormones endorphins, exercising on your period can actually enhance your performance. But Ella, who is also an ambassador for Bulk Nutrients says that we first need to understand the phases of our cycle.
The first of these is the follicular phase that occurs between day one and ovulation (around day 14) when the female hormone oestrogen is at its highest.
"Oestrogen has a positive effect on energy, mood and strength. This makes it the perfect time to be making big gains in muscle mass and strength. Towards the end of the follicular phase is ovulation, this sees an increase in all hormones including a rise in testosterone," Ella says.
The second part is the luteal phase which occurs between ovulation and menstruation. Though there is an initial drop in oestrogen it goes back up (along with progesterone) and this helps thicken the lining of the uterus in preparation for fertilisation.
"There will be a shift in mood, energy and a compromised ability to recover," adds Ella.
"During this time training should be altered to match the energy of the individual with a reduction in overall load and moderate weight."
It's during this luteal phase that there's an increase in energy expenditure, which means you burn more calories.
"Although most women have an increased appetite and intense cravings during this time so more calories are often consumed," Ella points out.
Exercising on your period can increase your strength, help you gain muscle and give you a mood boost. (Image: supplied)

Will exercising on your period make it lighter or heavier?

Good news ladies! Looking after yourself by eating nutritious food and regular exercise can also play a part in your menstrual cycle and help make it lighter.
"The thicker the lining of your uterus the heavier the period," reveals Ella.
"Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help reduce body fat which in turn will reduce the thickness of the lining and result in a lighter period."
Exercising on your period can even lead to a lighter flow! (Image: supplied)

What are the best exercises depending on your menstrual cycle stage?

If you're motivated to get moving when you're on your period, Ella says we should continue to exercise as normal.
"Focus on strength and hypertrophy if those are your goals, however reduce the load and total volume based on your energy and mood," she says.
But if you're struggling, it's important to take it a bit easier if the dreaded PMS symptoms hit.
"If you experience bloating, cramps or other PMS symptoms then the ability to activate the core is impacted so avoid heavy compound lifts and certainly don't try for a new personal best. Know when to pull back, go a bit lighter and switch your strength sessions to more of a circuit style metabolic session."
Always remember it's your body, so you should be kind to yourself and listen to it. While some women don't experience any difference in their strength or energy when they're on their period, others feel noticeably weaker. Ella says to keep the following questions in mind:
  • Are you up for training or is your energy and recovery low?
  • What stage are you in of your cycle and is now the time to hit those strength numbers?
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