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7 Gentle Forms of Exercise May Help Ease Those Period Cramps

Julie Kraut is a freelance writer and the author of Slept Away and Hot Mess. Visit JulieKraut.com for more.




Working out is the last thing we want to do when we're on our period, but these exercises may help

Studies vary widely regarding menstruation's effects on workouts. Some say it helps, while others say it harms. Still others say it’s easier to get injured. The truth is that there’s only one real rule for working out during your period: Listen to yourself.

If you're cramping in a major way, listen to your body and take the day off. One day off every month really isn't a bad thing. Then again, if you forego your fitness routine from the first hint of PMS to the last day of your period, you'll be sitting on the couch for nearly two weeks every month without exercise — and that's too long. Not only that, some studies suggest that exercise can actually help relieve cramps.

Here are seven exercises that might be perfect for you during your period.

1. Walking

Even experts against a hardcore workout on your period have to agree that a walk gets you moving without injury or danger. So, put on some sneakers and sunblock, and hit the road. Walking by itself isn't a huge calorie burner, but you will feel good about the fact that you exercised. Don't stress the exact calorie count.

More: Surprise — Period Hormones Don’t Scramble Your Brain

2. Running

It's not the best form of exercise while Aunt Flo is in town, but if you're feeling up for a jog, go for it. The endorphins you release during an intense cardio workout can help you beat the period ickies that you may be feeling. Hydrate well before, after and during your run, though — some researchers say you dehydrate more easily on your period. Whether that's true or not, err on the side of safety and keep drinking.

3. Yoga

Yoga is an amazing option when you're on your period. Yoga is very customizable; many poses have options to match your skill level. Inversions aren't recommended during your period, although this has no definitive medical basis. Still, having the option to relax in the goddess position if you're not up for a headstand is nice.

4. Aerobics

Sometimes when you're on your period, you just want to go a little crazy. Aerobic exercise is the perfect way to let loose. Plus, aerobics classes are typically held in a low-pressure environment where the focus is on fun.

5. Dancing

Shaking it up on the dance floor isn't exercise in the traditional sense, but it will rev your heart rate and burn some calories. This is a great option because it doesn't feel like exercise — and when you're on your period, you might need a little motivation to get gussied up and feel great about who you are. Stepping out into an evening of dancing and fun will certainly give you that extra oomph and make you feel fabulous.

More: Your Period Might Be the Reason You Can’t Stop Cleaning, Tripping & Sneezing

6. Planking

When it's that time of the month, most of the time all you want to do is stay home and watch Lifetime movies. Make the most of your TV time by holding a plank position during the commercials: 

  1. Get down on the floor.
  2. Put your arms and elbows under your chest.
  3. Raise your body using just your forearms and toes, and hold.

This is an intense all-over workout. Start by holding your plank during every other commercial and work up to holding through an entire commercial break.

7. Working out from home

Pop in an exercise DVD or pull up an on OnDemand workout. You don't need to dress in fancy workout gear, and quitting early won't be embarrassing if you're just doing it in your living room. Only you will know that you sweated to the oldies in your flannel nightie for exactly 14 minutes before sinking back into your couch to watch the Real Housewives reunion. (Nothing makes you feel less hormonal than watching legit crazy people, right?)

Don't use your period as an excuse to forget your fitness routine — but do listen to your body if you need a break from it.

Working out is the last thing we want to do when we're on our period, but these exercises may help
Image: Regina Ferrara/Sheknows

Originally published September 2011. Updated July 2017.

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