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Most of the women do not feel like exercising when they are down with their periods. The constant cramps lead to a feeling of listlessness and the motivation to exercise is just not there. But exercising provides relief from pain and also lifts your mood.

For most of the women, exercising during periods is an added inconvenience. Moreover, many of them believe that exercising during this time of the month can pose health hazards. Therefore, they tend to skip it. But does exercising really affect the menstrual cycle adversely? Let’s see what the scientific studies have to say on this matter.

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To understand the effect of exercise on your monthly cycle, it is important to first understand the various phases of the menstrual cycle. The average menstrual cycle lasts for twenty-eight days.

It can be divided into four important phases, namely:

  1. The Menstrual phase, which generally lasts for one to four days. It is the time when the blood vessels in the uterine lining contract. This results in the shedding off of the lining. The woman experiences bleeding during this period.
  2. The Follicular phase, which lasts from the fifth day following the menstruation to the thirteenth day of the cycle. The ovarian follicles ripen in this phase and the lining of the uterus thickens once again.
  3. The Ovulatory phase, during which egg is released from the dominant ovarian follicle. It usually takes place on the fourteenth day of the menstrual cycle.
  4. The Luteal phase is the phase of the menstrual cycle when one of the ovarian follicles matures and becomes the corpus luteum. The lining of the uterus thickens further. This phase lasts from the fifteenth day to the twenty-eighth day of the menstrual cycle.

These phases are a result of the hormonal fluctuation taking place inside a woman’s body. While estrogen is the dominant hormone in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, progesterone plays a crucial role in the luteal phase of the cycle. Apart from the changes in the uterine lining and ovulation, these hormones are responsible for the mood swings that women experience during different phases of their cycle. Especially the symptoms like anxiety, depression, lethargy, increased food cravings, bloating and headaches can be directly attributed to a sudden decline in the levels of circulating estrogen and progesterone just before menstruation.

There is a myth that exercising during menstruation can aggravate these symptoms. However, scientists opine that the reverse is true.

Exercising during menstruation can actually help in relieving many of the symptoms related to hormonal fluctuation.

Let us see how exercising can help in managing the symptoms associated with menstruation.

Benefits of exercising during menstruation

The single most important benefit of exercising is that it stimulates the body to release endorphins. The latter are painkillers secreted by the body which help in providing relief from the menstrual cramps.

Exercise also increases the blood flow to the pelvic region which helps in washing away of the chemicals which produce pain. Exercising also loosens the muscles of the lower abdomen and back. The muscles of the pelvic floor are strengthened and the reproductive organs get a better support. The endorphins released during exercise also help in elevating the mood and provide relief from the symptoms of anxiety and depression seen during menstruation. Exercise helps in decreasing the fluid accumulation in the body, so you do not get the feeling of being bloated during menstruation.

Continue reading after recommendations
  • “Effects of the menstrual cycle on exercise performance”, by Janse de Jonge, published in the 2003 issue of Sports medicine, accessed on December 8, 2012.
  • “Running for Women”, by Jason Karp and Carolyn Smith, published in 2012 issue of Human Kinetics, accessed on December 8, 2012.
  • “Exercise and Your Period”, by Liza Barnes, published on site BabyFit.com, accessed on December 8, 2012.
  • Photo courtesy of robertjosiah on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/robertjosiah/2364665844
  • Photo courtesy of pewari on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/pewari/3510598170

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