Often the last thing you want to do when your period starts is get up and go to the gym - but actually, it could be just the ticket.
“If you want to exercise whilst on your period, then you absolutely should,” Dr Daniel Fenton, clinical director of London Doctors Clinic, tells HuffPost UK. “To the best of my knowledge there is no scientific reason not to.”
While some might wish to avoid exercise during their period - a PureGym survey found almost half of women cancelled a class or workout and 25% have left early because of bad symptoms - Fenton says some find it can help to alleviate menstrual cramps, fatigue and helps get the endorphins going.
Dr Fenton says women with heavy periods might want to give intense workouts a miss during their period, especially if they tend to feel dizzy or light-headed, as it could make them feel worse or even cause them to faint.
“Having said that, light exercise, or participating in sport, may still be absolutely fine,” he adds. Just make sure you drink lots of water and, if at any point you feel dizzy, stop.
So what kind of workouts should you do? “Hormone levels fluctuate throughout your cycles and these fluctuations can contribute to how energetic you feel,” explains Dr Fenton.
“I suggest tailoring your exercise regime to your body, but there is no reason why you can’t try the same workouts you normally do, if you feel up to it.”
He says there is very little scientific evidence surrounding which workouts are best for women on their periods, so his recommendation is to do exercise that makes you feel good.
He adds, however, that he has seen a lot of debate about yoga worsening menstrual cramps and HIIT training being good for them.
“There is no hard evidence to suggest exercise makes things better or worse, but in my experience some women swear by it,” he adds. “It does make some sense however, as pleasurable signals are transmitted to the brain faster than pain signals, and exercise causes the release of endorphins (happy hormones).”
PureGym’s female personal trainers have designed a weekly workout to help women navigate exercise even when they’re on their period. FYI, you should start the plan on the week you come on your period.
Wai Yip, a personal trainer (PT) recommends women increase their carbs and calories slightly on the week of their period, focusing on foods such as rice, starchy vegetables, oats and sweet potato.
Fitness coach Monika Chmielweska says if you don’t experience cramps, the week of your period is the best time to push yourself at a high intensity and lift heavier weights.
“Oestrogen promotes endurance performance, therefore your body will be performing at its peak,” she says, “and you might find you are more tolerant to pain so those HITT classes or bootcamp could feel that bit easier.”