Men and women are two different beings, physically and also emotionally. Women, however, are special due to their “life-producing” ability. A woman’s physiology undergoes constant change throughout the month as opposed to that of a man who hardly undergoes such intense changes. All of these changes affect a woman’s energy production and metabolism, energy levels, mood, hydration and many other factors that affect the functioning of day to day life. This phenomenon, as we all know, is known as the menstrual cycle.
There are four stages of the menstrual cycle; i. Menstrual phase or menstruation (day 1-5) ii. Follicular phase (day 1-13) iii. Ovulation phase (day 14) iv. Luteal phase (day 15-28). However, the first stage, menstruation, is the crucial period when the body undergoes a number of stressors. For example stomach cramps, fear of changing pads continuously, uneasiness, dehydration, fatigue and a lack of motivation to socialize. Menstruation was defined by D.J. Cannon in an article published in 1934 in the British Medical Journal as the recurring shedding of blood from the uterus occurring at the time of ovulation.
During this phase, it becomes hard for some women to even think of engaging in any physical activity, let alone exercise. But is exercise really beneficial during this phase? Undoubtedly, the answer is yes. Even though one may not feel like exercising, the benefits of exercise outweigh the lack of emotional motivation as a justification. The British Journal of Pharmacology published an article, Exercise Acts as a Drug, in 2012 which noted that exercise could alter pain, mood swings and create “euphoria”. According to Dr. Lauren Streicher, gynecologist, and professor of obstetrics, one may be able to continue with their regular exercise routine during menstruation just like any other day.
However, since this period can affect each individual differently, here are some general exercise and nutrition tips that’ll keep your fitness levels up to the mark.
- It is advisable to modulate exercise according to one’s perceptual ability. In simple words, push yourself only until your mind and body permit you to do so. Keeping the workouts moderately intense will not harm your progress.
- If you don’t follow an exercise routine then walking, jogging, cycling or any non-strenuous activity could work to your advantage over a sedentary behavior.
- In fact, just the engagement in exercise will decrease the effects of a lot of stressors. Dr. Streicher further adds that including some exercises that require lying face-down could help with reducing belly cramps. A lot of yoga poses or asanas incorporate this position.
- Throughout menstruation, the estrogen levels are lowest in the body, which indicates the body to burn more carbohydrate as fuel which explains why so many women go through “carb-cravings” during this time. Hence, mindful eating is a plus during this phase. In other words, be aware of what you are eating and how much.
- According to Dr. Judith Wurtman, director of women’s health program at MIT- Cambridge, these carb-cravings could be curbed by engaging in exercise, cutting down on caffeine, drinking plenty of water, avoiding alcohol and consuming food items that are nutritionally dense (complex carbohydrate, high-quality protein, and essential fatty acids).
- Avoiding emotional stress and getting enough sleep (at least 7-9 hours per night) are other tools that could be used to stay healthy during menstruation.
Bonus: Meditation and breathing exercises will help you as a woman, cope with a lot of stressors and make your transition smoothly into the next stage of the menstrual cycle.
The advantages of exercising and eating mindfully during menstruation are numerous; hence, take a step and the initiative to continue your fitness routine even during that time of the month! You will not only function better but also feel a sense of accomplishment.