Exercise, periods and why working out can make them easier

Posted on March 19, 2021

Exercise, periods and why working out can make them easier

It might be tempting to stay on the sofa during that time of the month, but did you know that being active can help alleviate painful period symptoms? Here’s why you shouldn’t skip your workout during your period.

Exercise releases endorphins

When you work out, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which can reduce your perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in your body[1]. If your period leaves you feeling low, exercise could provide a natural mood-booster while also relieving painful cramps.

Exercise improves blood circulation

By improving the circulation in the pelvic area, exercise may reduce menstrual pain. Increased blood flow can help relax your pelvic muscles and ease any aches that arrive with your period2,3.

Exercise eases bloating

Changes in progesterone and oestrogen levels during your period cause your body to retain more water and salt, which can make you feel bloated. Working up a sweat during an exercise session can help tackle water retention, soothing a bloated stomach4. Keeping well hydrated can also help flush out toxins and balance the sodium levels in the body.

Tips for working out during your period

Tips for working out during your period

Balance workouts with rest

A good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to soothe a painful period, so make sure you have a healthy balance of exercise and rest while menstruating.

Listen to your body

Pay attention to your body and don’t push yourself too hard while exercising during your period. Understand when your body needs to rest and when it needs to move.

Try yoga or pilates

Gentler activities like yoga or pilates which focus on relaxation are ideal when you want to take care of your mental wellbeing as well as your physical fitness.

Find a period product that works for you

You may find different period products suit your body better during exercise. Find what is comfortable for you and sometimes it may be more comfortable working out from home during this time.

Fuel with the right foods

Fuel with the right foods

What you eat can also have an impact on how you feel during your period. Iron contributes to normal formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin and both iron and vitamin B12 contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Tackle tiredness by increasing your iron and vitamin B12 intake with red meat, beans, chickpeas, cheese, milk or fish. If you do not consume an adequate amount of these foods in your diet or are a vegan, supplementation of these nutrients can also help.

Other vitamins and minerals that can be included are vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and magnesium. Vitamin B6 contributes to normal red blood cell formation, reduction of tiredness and fatigue and to the regulation of hormonal activity. Foods vitamin B6 is found in include: lean meat like chicken and turkey, pork, peanuts, soya beans, oats, banana and milk. Magnesium also contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue and normal muscle function. Magnesium can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Avoid processed foods which contain sodium and refined carbohydrates (white flour, pastries, white rice, sweet desserts) which increase bloating, and steer clear of sugary or caffeinated drinks which can make cramps worse.

Spices like turmeric, cardamom, ginger or coriander have anti-inflammatory benefits5 and can also add flavour to your dishes.

With the right balance of exercise, rest, hydration and a healthy diet, your next period could be much less painful for both your mind and body.

If you are worried about your period pain or how heavy it is, always speak to your doctor.


  1. Harvard Health. (2011). Exercising to relax, How does exercise reduce stress? Surprising answers to this question and more. Available: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax#:~:text=Exercise%20reduces%20levels%20of%20the,natural%20painkillers%20and%20mood%20elevators.%20Last%20accessed%2018th%20March%202020. Last accessed 18th March 2020.
  2. The Royal Women’s Hospital. The Pelvic Floor.Available: https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/pregnancy-and-birth/a-healthy-pregnancy/the-pelvicfloor#:~:text=Exercising%20weak%20muscles%20regularly%2C%20over,strengthen%20your%20pelvic%20floor%20. Last accessed 18th March 2020.
  3. Proctor, M. and Farquhar, C. . (2006). Diagnosis and management of dysmenorrhoea. TheBMJ. 332 (7550), 1134–1138. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1459624/
  4. Bodyform. Why do I bloat and gain weight during my cycle?.Available: https://www.bodyform.co.uk/myths-and-facts/living-with-periods/bloating-and-weight-gain/. Last accessed 18th March 2020. https://www.bodyform.co.uk/myths-and-facts/living-with-periods/bloating-and-weight-gain/
  5. Raman, R. (2021). 9 Herbs and Spices That Fight Inflammation.Available: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/anti-inflammatory-herbs. Last accessed 18th March 2020.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/anti-inflammatory-herbs