Exercise and Period Cramps: Can Working Out Actually Help?

Anju Mobin - Writer for Trim Down Club
By Anju Mobin
Davor Štefanović - Editor for Trim Down Club
Edited by Davor Štefanović

Updated April 26, 2023.

Woman stretching outdoors during her period in preparation for exercise

Period pain, or cramps, is a common reason for girls and women to miss school or work. These cramps usually manifest as painful muscle contractions in the abdomen, which can radiate to the back and thighs. The muscular wall of the womb tightens, causing sharp, stabbing pains for some, while others experience a dull ache or intense spasms. Painkillers and hot water bottles can help alleviate discomfort, but have you ever considered exercise as a solution?

Exercise can actually help reduce menstrual cramps and the associated bloating.

So how or why does exercise help with period cramps?

Let's find out!

How Does Exercise Help Period Cramps?

During menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, which affects how the body uses fuel during exercise. Estrogen increases insulin sensitivity and promotes carbohydrate storage, while low insulin levels make the body more likely to burn carbs for energy rather than store them. This provides more energy and endurance for exercise.

Exercising helps you deal with period cramps in various ways:

  • Releases endorphins: Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins or "happy hormones," which help distract from pain and discomfort. It also releases beta-endorphins, a specific type of endorphin produced by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain. These are also known as“human morphine” as they block the sensation of pain.
  • Breaks down chemicals that cause painful muscle contractions: Exercise can alleviate menstrual cramps by increasing blood flow to the uterus and helping break down chemicals that cause muscle contractions.
  • Reduces stress: Exercise can help reduce stress, which can, in turn, lessen the intensity of cramps.

How to Exercise During Your Period

When choosing the type and duration of workouts during your period, consider your mood and personal preferences. Listen to your body and do what feels right.

Some of the exercises you can try are:

  • Low-intensity exercises: - Low-intensity workouts such as walking, stretching, and hot yoga help lower your stress hormones. Your body temperature tends to be cooler than normal during your period due to the drop in hormones, and these exercises can warm up your system and make you feel better.
  • Moderate-intensity exercises: A light jog or a run, or moderate-intensity aerobic workouts can help reduce inflammation in the body. These workouts raise your heart rate, get your blood flowing, and help relieve menstrual cramping.
  • High-intensity exercises: Don't shy away from HIIT workouts, as lower estrogen levels make more carbs available for energy. However, if you feel fatigued, reduce workout intensity.

» Wondering how effective a 7-minute workout can be? Here's what the experts say

A Short, Effective Workout Routine for Menstrual Relief

During your period, it's best to opt for a short, effective workout routine rather than enduring long hours of exercise. TDC's 7-minute workout, designed by Meredith Shirk, is an ideal option that uses Sprint Interval Training (SIT) exercises. The routine involves three sets of 20-second high-intensity workouts followed by 60-second active rest periods.

This workout program can easily be incorporated into your daily routine, as it requires no additional equipment and can be done anywhere. Your body weight provides the resistance needed for strength training exercises. Consistency with this program, even during menstruation, can help you see results and potentially relieve period cramps.

One&Done Workout

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