We often feel hapless and lethargic during our periods, which makes it tempting to become a couch potato during this time. And whilst there's nothing wrong with snuggling up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and a blanket, there are some great advantages to doing at least a few exercises.
Regular aerobic exercises can actually decrease PMS symptoms and the associated mood swings and fatigue. Exercising produces endorphins which are mother nature's natural painkiller. By increasing your circulation it can also alleviate cramps, headaches and back pains.
Here are some examples of exercises you should consider the next time you're on your period:
Walking is great; you can pretty much do it anywhere at any time. And it's easy: just put one foot in front of the other. Walking helps your heart, bones and muscles get stronger and lowers your blood pressure. Scientists are now even exploring the idea that walking makes us brainier by stimulating our cognitive mapping system - basically our brain's internal GPS.
You can match your pace to your fitness level. If your level of fitness allows it, aim for a brisk 30 minute walk a day. If you're just getting started then start slowly at just 5-10 minutes a day and work your way up. If you're looking for a more intense workout you can walk longer, faster or uphill.
Swimming is one of the healthiest, funnest and most challenging exercises out there. By using almost every muscle in your body you will build endurance. It's great for your heart and stress levels too.
Many women are worried about leaking blood into the water, or leaving a trail, but with a tampon or one of our menstrual cups you truly have nothing to worry about as they won't leak. The water pressure would actually stop any flow anyway, and even if some would leak, it would immediately be diluted by the water.
When you're just getting started, the secret is to start slowly and build up from there. Try swimming for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this 10 times. Next, add kicking and adhere to the 30 second intervals. When you're ready then you can go up to 45 second intervals and further.
Research indicates yoga can help with providing relief from many common discomforts during our periods such as cramps and PMS. Studies have also found a reduction in breast tenderness and bloating, and a positive effect on stress levels and relaxation.
Like walking, yoga can be done anytime and anywhere. All you need is a yoga mat. That said, it's much easier to keep up with a routine when you have others that count on you. Joining a yoga class near you is fun and a great opportunity to meet like minded people. There are some great DVDs available as well as YouTube instructional videos. Try starting with some basic poses such as the cat-cow or downward facing dog.
What to avoid
Most of us can and will probably be able to continue with our established routines but perhaps cut back a little. When you're feeling unusually tired it's better to avoid intense cardiovascular exercise and endurance training.
It's important to listen to your body, especially whilst on your period. If it hurts or makes you feel nauseous, stop and rest.