Should You Exercise While You Have Your Period?

Dysmenorrhea, Painful Period - Winnipeg, Manitoba

If you’re anything like me, you’ve excused yourself from exercise because of your period. The last time I did this, I pondered it. Would it make me feel better? Or would I actually just continue hanging out with Aunt Flow in misery?

A quick PubMed search led me to this Cochrane Review, published just last month (September 2019).

Now, this review was looking at the effectiveness of exercise on primary dysmenorrhea (period pain that isn’t caused by ‘pelvic pathology’ – disease, disorder, infection, etc.). This review & meta-analysis included studies with women who experienced moderate-to-severe (primary) period pain. And it’s worth noting - none of these trials compared exercise to the birth control pill.

The studies included in the review used low-intensity exercise (core strengthening, yoga, stretching) or high-intensity exercise (which they considered aerobic training, Zumba), but none of those studies looked at resistance training.

The review concludes that to-date, there is only low-quality evidence. But that evidence suggests that workouts between 45-60 minutes, 3+/week, REGARDLESS OF INTENSITY, may provide a clinically significant reduction in menstrual pain intensity. The authors conclude that given the overall health benefits of exercise (and relatively low risk of side effects in the general population), women might want to consider using exercise to provide relief of menstrual pain (alone, or in addition to typical treatments for painful period).


There you have it; prioritize movement during Aunt Flow’s visit. I’ll try to remind myself of this too.


Reference(s): PMID: 31538328