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Menstrual Health

A Guide to Exercising Throughout Your Menstrual Cycle

Hormone fluctuations during the four stages of your menstrual cycle are a goldmine of data points that can inform your decisions around fitness. Each cycle brings with it a time for building physical endurance and a time for rest. Read on to know more.

Nov 21, 2023

4 min read

Written by Pallavi Pundir
Medically Reviewed by 

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A woman in blue workout gear surrounded by exercise gear appropriate for all the different stages of her menstrual cycles

If you’re keen on understanding how to beat lethargy or sustain those sudden bursts of energy during your menstrual cycle, you’ve come to the right place. Exercise is a critical contributor to overall wellness. When it comes to women, our menstrual cycles play a significant role in how our bodies function and react to physical activity.

Some days of the month, you’ll notice an aching back, foggy thinking, and general lethargy, while on other days, your mind is sharp, and you’re charged by a burst of energy that lasts for days.

It’s natural to feel confused and exasperated about the unpredictability of it all. But it’s important to know that it’s because your body is going through its menstrual cycle. This results in a rise and dip of hormones, contributing to those active and lazy days. While these hormonal fluctuations are a roadmap to empowering women, they remain vastly misunderstood.

Employ the power of Cycle Syncing

During your menstrual cycle, hormonal changes can cause changes in mood, appetite, creativity, energy and social engagement.

“Cycle syncing” is a way to adapt to these changes to achieve better balance and feel your best. It is achieved by arranging your lifestyle and routine around the phases of your menstrual cycle.

One of the most basic ways to not get overwhelmed by the change of hormones in your 28-day cycle is to plan your diet during the four stages of your menstrual cycle and chart out the types of exercise to do during your period and after.

Days 0-6: Menstruation: Go easy with moderate-intensity exercises

Health experts note that worldwide, women experience over 100 symptoms during menstruation, ranging from abdominal pain, headache, and nausea to back pain. This is all due to the shedding of the endometrium that causes bleeding.

At this time, the hormone oestrogen is at its lowest point, causing your energy levels to dip. This is a good time to slow down. The types of exercise to do during your menstrual cycle, recommended by many fitness experts, include moderate-intensity workouts like yoga or walking, which can offset symptoms to a certain degree.

Days 1-13: Follicular Phase: Break into a sweat with some weights or cardio

Occurring simultaneously during menstruation and going on till the 13th day, this period is characterised by gradually increasing levels of oestrogen, essential to build muscle mass. Some health experts recommend workouts such as strength training and/or cardio. Oestrogen is a mood enhancer, which also works well when it comes to motivation.

Research shows that oestrogen is believed to have a protective function against muscle damage, while also reducing the inflammatory response and muscle soreness.

Day 14: Ovulation: Dial up the intensity with strength training

This is the most fertile time of the month and a ripe time to push yourself. “Our bodies don’t have a huge amount of testosterone, but it rises during ovulation, and this makes it an ideal time to really push [your body] because of the energy levels,” says Evgenia Koroleva, a fitness expert and founder of The Female Curve app. But be careful of injuries and focus on warm-ups before plunging into intense workouts.

H2: Days 15-28: Luteal Phase: Ease into gentle movement

In the luteal phase, progesterone rises alongside oestrogen. The calming hormone progesterone enhances sleep and impacts how the brain picks up new skills. Taper down and do more restorative workouts like moderate cardio, outdoor walks or hikes, swimming and cycling.

Stay on top of your menstrual cycle

If you’ve been struggling with ’unpredictable’ physical soreness and energy levels or have been trying to understand how to plan for better fitness during the four stages of your menstrual cycle, this article has hopefully given you the tips to exercise safely during your periods and live more comfortably. When you arm yourself with the proper knowledge, you’ll realise that periods don’t have to be so complicated anymore.

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Shruti Mane, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

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