It can be tempting to hibernate in front of Netflix when you’re on your period – but dragging your ass to the gym could ease cramps and fatigue, new research suggests.
In a study of more than 14,000 women, the majority (78%) said exercise reduces symptoms they experience related to their menstrual cycle. And the research, led by a team from St Mary’s University, appeared to back this up.
One in three women said they have missed work because of their period. However, women who met physical exercise guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation and ate at least five portions of fruit and veg were less likely to miss work due to period symptoms than others.
The research was carried out in conjunction with Strava, the social network for athletes and FitrWoman, the menstrual cycle tracking and exercise app, co-created by Dr Georgie Bruinvels from St Mary’s University. Women answering the survey were Strava members from around the world.
Although the majority of women said exercise helps their symptoms, 69% said they were forced to change their exercise routine while on their period. A total of 88% felt their exercise performance gets worse at some point during their menstrual cycle.
The most common period symptoms women reported experiencing were stomach cramps, breast pain, mood changes, fatigue and cravings.
Almost three-quarters (72%) of women around the world reported receiving no education regarding exercise and their menstrual cycle. This figure increased to 82% in the UK and Ireland – where 40% said they reduced exercise during puberty, compared to figures of less than 20% in the USA, France and Germany.
Dr Bruinvels hopes the research will spark conversations about exercise and menstruation, encouraging more women to share their experiences so they can find solutions to any barriers.
“We wanted to start an important conversation about exercise, the menstrual cycle and other lifestyle factors that will empower all women to work with their body, not against it,” she said. “We want women to feel comfortable discussing something that is very normal and natural.”