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How Exercise Affects Your Menstrual Cycle

  By Mansi Kohli  posted May 15th 2012 at 7:30AM IN | Avg Rating
Healthy Living


Relationship between Exercise and Menstruation Cycle

A woman's menstrual cycle is often linked to her emotional well-being. Many also believe that one must avoid exercising during periods. But how true is this claim? Should a woman actually take a 4-6 day break from workouts every month, when on her period? We take a look.

Everyone is aware of the basic, ground benefits of regular exercise. It helps in regulating healthy blood pressure, keeps the heart healthy, conditions and tones muscles, helps in joint flexibility - all while helping healthy weight control. Exercise also keeps a host of lifestyle diseases at bay, and is a known way to fight and recover from life-threatening serious illnesses as well. But exercising, while menstruating, is proven to be even more beneficial. A moderate intensity workout helps in alleviating cramps (also known as dysmenorrhea) and also keeps the feeling of bloating at bay.

Other than this, exercising during your periods also helps in effective blood circulation, thus relieving headaches and other aches and pains caused by the blood loss and iron depletion. In some, exercising regularly also helps in curbing the insatiable craving for junk food. 

To understand the relationship between exercise and a woman's menstrual cycle, we need to understand how different fitness levels respond to periods. For the sake of simplicity, let us divide the fitness levels into:

  • Too little fitness. Women, who lead sedentary lifestyles, tend to experience long and painful menstruation cycles; Not to forget, irregular too. 
  • Moderate fitness. Women with moderate fitness levels tend to experience shorter and less extreme menstruation cycle. The key word here is regular. A moderate level of fitness, leads to a moderate level of menstruation flow. 45 minutes to 1 hour of any exercise (for instance: Cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, pilates, dancing, yoga or stretching) performed more than thrice a week may help you reach the moderate fitness level.  
  • Too much fitness. Women who tend to take part in bodybuilding and extreme fitness exercise could suffer from a temporary cessation of menstruation. When body fat levels dip below 20%, women might suffer from irregular menstruation cycles. 

Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Consultant Obesity/Gyne, Fertility and IVF Expert at Nurture, New Delhi, says (about the relationship between exercise and menstruation cycle):  "A menstrual cycle can be divided into six different phases. On an average, the first three are related to changes in the lining of the uterus and the final three are related with the processes occurring in the ovary. As a physiological effect of menstruation, one might feel tired, fatigue, depressed and more prone to acne. This makes the menstruation period an uneasy time. Therefore, an increased intensity in strength training is beneficial during the menstruation: Since the metabolic rate lowers during menses, hence one should increase their exercise and calories intake by 20-25%."

*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images



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