The last thing most women want to do when they're dealing with pain from period cramps is power through a tough workout, or even a relatively slow and relaxing one. When cramps hit during that time of the month, I prefer to take to my bed rather than head to the gym. But that may be the worse thing you can do, because there are some exercises to alleviate period cramps and make dealing with the oh-so-lovely period side effects a little less painful and a little more peaceful.
There are many possible solutions to tackling the pain associated with period cramps, including over-the-counter medications, heating pads, acupuncture, foods, and essential oils. But exercise is also often cited by healthcare providers and other women as an effective way to combat period pain, also called primary dysmenorrhea. According to a study published in Women & Health, women who were moderately active during their period had less pain than those who skipped their workouts. Additionally, the U.S. Office on Women's Health recommends exercise to alleviate premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
Although working out may be the last thing you want to try while in the throes of painful cramping, it seems more than worth it if it'll make the pain go away. Who wouldn't prefer a more peaceful period?
Dr. Lauren Streicher, a gynecologist, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, told Cosmopolitan that swimming is a great workout option for while you're on your period. If you feel up to a workout, which may help alleviate cramping, swimming is a good substitute for a long run, which you might not have the lung capacity for until after your period has ended, according to a 2015 study published in the journal, Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology.
2. Cat Pose
As Dr. Suzanne Tupin, a gynecologist at the Women's Health Practice in Champaign, Illinois, told Fitness that cat pose is helpful when comes to relieving cramping and other PMS symptoms. Why? Well, yoga pairs gentle movement with deep breathing and meditation, which some women find especially helpful during that time of the month. Cat pose (and its counter pose, cow) gives your internal organs a nice massage and, according to Medical Daily, boosts energy, facilitates increased blood flow, and eases anxiety.
Briskly walking may seem to be a bit of a break from your typical long run, but it serves to raise your heart rate and lets your body release endorphins. According to WebMD, endorphins can help counteract uterine cramping, making your period less painful.
4. Wide-Legged Child's Pose
This pose, done with your knees widened to about the width of your yoga mat, is especially good for cramping that you feel in your lower back, according to POPSUGAR. Plus, it's so relaxing, your whole body will thank you.
5. Half Moon Pose
Cristi Christensen, mind body director at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, California, told Self that this hip-opener helps stretch the pelvic region, ease cramping, and lessen heavy bleeding.
According to SheKnows, a bike ride may help alleviate period cramps. I'm not talking about a high-intensity spin class (though if you feel up to it, you do you, girl), but a bike ride that gets your heart pumping will release endorphins, easing pain.
7. Reclining Twist
According to the aforementioned Medical Daily article, a gentle reclined twist helps with lower back pain. I don't know about you, but I'm all for exercises that let me lay on the floor.
Don't push it if you're not feeling up to it, but Michelle Lovitt, a fitness expert and strength and conditioning coach for ASICS, told Refinery29 that cardio workouts that raise your heart rate to 65 percent of your maximum can help minimize or eliminate cramping. A nice, light jog should get the job done.
9. Reclining Bound Angle
This one's basically the mother of all PMS-relievers. According to the aforementioned Self article, remaining in this pose for anywhere from about five to 10 minutes should help fight bloating, cramps, fatigue, lower back pain, and also open up your pelvic area. Just don't forget to breathe.