How your menstrual cycle can impact your exercise routine.

Image: iStock.

Here’s something you might know already: periods have a tendency to affect aspects of your life.

These might include, but are not limited to: your happiness, your Panadol intake, your sleeping habits, your will to even get out of bed in the morning, and of course, your appetite (“Hello, I’ll take all the haloumi in your store, please…”).

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So it shouldn’t come as a surprise your period can have some bearing on your exercise routine — and not just because you might feel like this:

According to Joe Bonington, strength and conditioning trainer and founder of adventure gym Joe's Base Camp, your entire cycle can "massively" influence how you exercise. This is largely thanks to fluctuating hormone levels throughout the month, and the side effects many women experience before and during their period.

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Take, for instance, cramps and inflammation that can occur when the lining of the uterus is being shed. This causes pain in your lower abdominal region, or 'core', and certain workouts will only cause more discomfort.

"Science shows us any time there is pain, a muscle's function is inhibited... If your core is inhibited, you certainly don't want to be doing heavy strength training during that week," Bonington says. (Post continues after gallery.)


"If you imagine your core, which is supporting your spine and everything, and then you're going and doing heavy squats and heavy lunges and sit ups and hanging leg raises, it's a disaster waiting to happen. Or holding anything overhead — overhead pressing, anything like that."

In general, Bonington says light to moderate exercise during your period could actually help offset side-effects like cramps, bloating, nausea and mood changes (thanks, endorphins). He recommends avoiding high-impact activities like skipping and box jumps, because they could cause discomfort, but says steady-state cardio out in the fresh air is a winner.

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"Going for a gentle run, preferably in the bush or beside the sea or in a park — that can make you feel much better, it'll lower all your cortisol levels and stress hormones. Even if it's going for a walk, just keep moving," Bonington says.

Even a walk outside will help you feel better.

Swimming is another good option, as is some forms of yoga; however, Boning says to steer clear of poses that involve too much backwards bending, because that will only add pressure to your embattled core region.

Of course, every individual's period is going to be different — some women don't really experience any side effects. However, if your period symptoms are particularly nasty or abnormal, don't drag yourself to the gym — seeing your doctor is a much wiser idea.


Fatigue is another important factor to take into account. Low hormone levels during the first few days of your period tend to cause a slump in energy, and your period can also mess with your sleep.

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"If you're having to get up in the middle of the night to change, and you're having broken sleep, that's going to affect how you are. Remember that when you're tired and wiped out you're much more prone to injury," Bonington explains. (Post continues after video.)

However, there is a light at the end of the, um, tunnel. In the week straight after your period, Bonington says your levels of testosterone and oestrogen rise quite dramatically, making this the ideal time to get stuck into strength training and high intensity workouts like HIIT.

"You're going to feel absolutely awesome, and your energy levels will be through the roof, so take advantage of it. Testosterone isn't just a boys' hormone — it's what controls all muscular growth and controls your libido and all that kind of stuff," Bonington says.

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"The week after your period, go hard. During your period, go medium. And as you're coming back into your period again, especially if you're starting to get water retention, tender boobs, etc, then you just want to ease back a little bit."

How to pick a personal trainer
Don't hesitate to talk to your PT.

If you exercise with a trainer, there's no reason to be self-conscious about letting them know what's going on with your body and how it's responding to workouts.

"Definitely let them know. If your trainer turns bright red and looks away, get another trainer," Bonington says.

RELATED: How to pick the right personal trainer for you.

"All forms and all parts of female physiology come up on a regular basis with an experienced trainer. It's a very relevant part and if you are going to do the best for your client you really need to let them know about how training during their menstrual cycle can affect them, and alter their program accordingly."

Do you adjust your exercise during your period? 

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