The menstrual cycle has long been connected to folk tales and misinformation, leaving many women confused about proper activity levels during that time of the month. A typical period lasts five days out of every 28, so skipping exercise during those days can negatively affect your overall fitness. While it is best to follow your body's signals regarding exercise, understanding the medical facts about working out during menstruation can help you plan your routine.
It is physically safe to continue your regular workout routine during your period. Water sports such as swimming may require the wearing of a tampon. If you feel miserable because of bloating or cramps, take the day off from exercise, perform your workout for a shorter time or try a less strenuous workout, such as a leisurely walk through a park.
Effects of Exercise on Menstrual Pain
The BBC reports that exercise does not directly relieve menstrual pain. Physical activity can, however, improve your mood, making you better able to cope with menstrual cramps and pain. If you regularly experience discomfort during your period, bring it to your health care provider's attention rather than attempting to self-help with exercise.
Training for a marathon or other sports competition requires your body to be in top form. The hormone fluctuation brought on by your reproductive cycle can play havoc with your training efforts. Researchers at Tel Aviv University's school of medicine found that hormonal changes can both hinder and help performance, varying throughout your cycle. If you notice a decline in performance related to your period, your health care provider might prescribe an oral contraceptive to keep your hormonal levels stable throughout the month. Their findings were reported in the April 2005 edition of "Clinics in Sports Medicine."
Effects of Too Much Exercise
Go Ask Alice, Columbia University Health Service's question and answer forum, noted in 1999, that both long endurance and high intensity workouts, when performed consistently, can cause your periods to cease. This condition, known as amenorrhea, is a warning sign that your body is out of balance. If your workouts are so long or intense that they are affecting your menstruation, they are likely causing other effects on your body. If you miss more than one period, see your health care provider for guidance. A workout of 30 minutes to an hour of moderate intensity exercise, three to six days per week, is a healthy goal for non-athletes.