Health Topics

Healthy Living

August 2011
Have a Happy Period
Exercise! This is the time!
Dr Harmeet Malhotra
Contrary to the age-old belief, women during periods are capable of sustaining intense physical activities. There is an increase in the hormones like estrogen, progesterone and luteinizing hormone during various phases of the menstrual cycle. All this is accompanied with an increase in the metabolism and body temperature.

Research studies indicate that women do well in endurance activities during their periods since they are able to increase fat mobilization and breakdown, and inhibit the use of glycogen. Less lactate builds up in the muscle and, as a consequence, women are able to sustain a relatively high intensity of exercise for longer time. Generally, women also report that they feel the exercise to be easier at this time.

The elevated performance during the latter part of the cycle may be offset by symptoms of pre-menstrual tension that some women experience, which include, for instance, anxiety, nausea, irritability and bloating. There is some suggestion that peaks in testosterone combined with estrogen lead to increase in strength and this makes the exercise effective in the middle of the cycle. In the latter part of the menstrual cycle, ensure that you exercise in a cool environment to offset the changes like increased body temperature and heart rate.

Significance of exercise during periods
Regular exercise is recommended as one of the ways to alleviate the pain and discomfort that some women experience before and during menstruation. Customary exercising can significantly reduce the severity of the symptoms like premenstrual syndrome or PMS or menstrual cramps. Exercise and walking help in alleviating bloating.

Exercise is safe during periods
Amidst all the myths and misconceptions surrounding menstruation, there is no reason why the period should get in the way of your daily activities, and more so, the exercise. In fact, light exercises and a brisk walk instead of running can be an alternative for preventing heavy bleeding or aggravation of other symptoms. The weights and the number of squats or push-ups can be reduced during the strength training exercises. 

Exercise helps
  • Aerobic exercises aid in alleviating dysmenorrhea by releasing endorphins, the natural painkillers in the body and by altering the prostaglandin production.
  • Exercise can take care of the depression, the anxiety and the mood swings during PMS for similar reasons.
  • Exercise aids in reducing bloating because sweating releases body water.
  • Increase in the levels of glycogen (stored glucose) coupled with increased estrogen and progesterone levels lead to more efficient burning of fat in case of exercising during the second half of the cycle.
  • If blood sugar levels are high in diabetic women during periods, exercise can help in getting rid of the extra glucose.

Dr Harmeet Malhotra is Senior Consultant Obstetrics & Gynaecology Apollo Indraprastha Hospitals New Delhi
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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