By Swara Patel
For a lot of us who experience painful periods or have a heavy flow, exercise seems to be counterintuitive when we try to make ourselves comfortable while menstruating. Growing a lot of us can relate to having been cautioned by adults to not exercise during our periods because we might bleed more heavily or this might worsen our cramps. However, the menstrual taboo and this common societal narrative of exercise being a big no during periods has sidelined many of the lesser known benefits and relief that moderate exercise during your period can bring you.
According to an article by Mayo Clinic, it is estimated that 3 in 4 menstruators have experienced PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) wherein signs and symptoms vary from person to person but include fatigue, irritability, and mood swings. Exercise is known to release endorphins which can truly enhance your mood (think about those post workout highs) and also act as natural painkillers to lessen the severity of your cramps. If you find that you can’t continue with your normal exercise routine during periods, don’t exert yourself or engage in an intense workout. Instead, go for a brisk walk in the sunlight, light cardio, aerobic exercise, or some yoga asanas which can help you stretch and get some cramp relief. Yoga is known to reduce some PMS symptoms such as cramping, breast tenderness, muscular fatigue, and soreness, and can help you get some much needed relaxation. Apart from alleviating headaches, cramps, and backaches during your periods, regular exercise has many health benefits including improving your blood circulation.
If you are looking at going for a swim during your periods, a tampon is a viable alternative which requires insertion and absorbs your blood preventing it from leaking out. A menstrual cup has the same benefit as well since it requires insertion and collects your blood. These products do require some general safety practices such as washing your hands thoroughly with soap before and after insertion and tampons must be changed at regular intervals to prevent toxic shock syndrome (TSS). However, these products may not be within everyone’s comfort zone so you can always switch to alternative forms of exercise while menstruating if you’re still uncomfortable using a cup or a tampon. Exercise in general has an array of health benefits and can help you beat some of your PMS symptoms or period cramps so it’s a win win situation and we encourage you to follow a routine that works best for your body.
About the writer: Swara is the Founder and President of The Period Society, a youth led non profit putting a period to the stigma surrounding menstruation nationwide in India. She is a freshman at the Macaulay Honors College in New York City double majoring in Biochemistry and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies on a premedical track. She is extremely passionate about gender equality and menstrual equity, and her work with The Period Society has been recognized by General Motors and Ashoka Global’s Stem for Changemaking Challenge, the winner of the Act2Impact initiative by Harvard University and Worldview’s Act to Impact Challenge, the Erinn Phelan Award, and Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Institute. She can be reached at email@example.com or her personal email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Yatin Patel. Dr. Patel is physician with over two decades of expertise and primarily practices at the Leela Polyclinic and Diagnostic center in Mahim.