The menstrual cycle is a cyclical process that involves a series of changes in a woman’s body. As the body prepares for a possible pregnancy each month, physical and psychological changes are evident. From mood swings and changes in energy levels to pain, discomfort, and fatigue; a woman goes through everything. But should this natural, biological process rule your way of living? Fortunately, a healthy and active lifestyle is possible in all phases of menstrual cycle.
Phases of Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is caused due to hormonal shifts. Four key hormones responsible are oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and LH. The four phases of menstrual cycle include:
- Menstrual phase – This is the bleeding phase when the uterus sheds its lining called the endometrium. This phase lasts for 4-6 days starting from the first day of the period. The levels of hormones progesterone and oestrogen are low during this phase. This leads to low energy and motivation to work out. There is more muscle cramping and fatigue due to blood loss.
- Follicular phase – The end of the menstrual phase marks the beginning of the follicular phase. It lasts for about 8-10 days. Oestrogen levels begin to increase as the body prepares to reform the egg and the endometrial lining. The rising oestrogen levels give a greater gush of energy. The body is therefore ready for higher-intensity training.
- Ovulation phase – This phase lasts for about 3-5 days. It is typically the middle of the menstrual cycle when the ovulation of the mature egg takes place. The levels of the LH hormone are the highest during this time. But as oestrogen levels are still high, you will feel energetic and active.
- Luteal phase – This is the longest of the four phases of menstrual cycle. It lasts for up to 14 days. During the first half of the luteal phase, the oestrogen levels are higher than the progesterone levels, so you’ll feel energetic and active. However, in the second half of the luteal phase, the progesterone levels rise and the oestrogen levels begin to drop. This leads to fatigue and sluggishness. The end of the luteal phase marks the beginning of the menstrual phase.
Exercises as per Your Menstrual Cycle
The key to a healthy workout in each menstrual phase is to work with the body and not against it. This will not only yield desired results but also protect the body from injuries and hurtful episodes. Here’s how to exercise during menstruation:
1. Exercise During Menstrual Phase
As the body is low on energy and more prone to stomach cramping during the bleeding phase, exercise during this phase is commonly avoided. But studies show that exercising during menstruation helps reduce period pain. During the menstrual phase aim for a 20-30 minute workout.
The best exercises for the menstrual phase include:
- Low-intensity cardio
- Low-volume strength training
- Sculpt training with light weights
- Bike ride
Studies suggest that walking is the best exercise to reduce period pain.
2. Exercise During Follicular Phase
The oestrogen levels in this phase are high. So the body feels light, energetic and active. No wonder it is the best time for high-intensity workouts. Aim for no more than 75 minutes of workout with about 45 minutes of high-intensity workout.
The best exercises for the follicular phase include
- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
- Strength training with heavier weights
- Cardio training
3. Exercise During Ovulation Phase
The ovulation phase marks the release of the mature egg. High levels of LH hormone facilitate this. As the energy and endurance levels are high, one can go in for rigorous workout regimens. Consider working out for up to an hour during the ovulation phase.
The best exercises during the ovulation phase include:
- Cardio training
- Hot workout
- Power Yoga
It is important to note that women who intend to get pregnant must avoid high-intensity workouts during the ovulation phase. Instead, switch to lighter exercises that aid pregnancy.
4. Exercises During Luteal Phase
While the first half of the luteal phase sees high oestrogen levels that help in the thickening of the uterus lining, the latter half has a progesterone surge. This progesterone surge causes a drop in energy levels. The best exercising strategy during the latter phase is to slow down training and focus on adequate recovery. Working out for 45 minutes is ideal during the luteal phase.
The best exercise for the luteal phase include:
- Low impact exercises
- Casual bike riding
- Moderate weights with more repetitions
- Rowing machine
- Pilates workout
Understanding your menstrual cycle will help you to be more in touch with your body. Being aware of ‘why you feel’ the ‘way you feel’ allows you to take a conscious approach towards your activities and habits. Cycle syncing allows you to match your nutrition and fitness according to the phases of menstrual cycle. This synchronisation helps you to get over the downside of hormonal fluctuations in a better fashion. Choosing the fitness regimen and intensity of exercise during menstruation depending upon the stages of menstrual cycle will allow you to reap maximum benefits despite the hormonal upheaval.
Frequently Asked Questions About Exercises for Different Phases Of Menstrual Cycle
Q. Why should I exercise according to my menstrual cycle?
On average, a menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. This period sees four phases - menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal phase. The levels of key sex hormones, oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and LH vary during each phase. While high levels of oestrogen make you feel more energetic, high levels of progesterone make you feel low and fatigued. Thus, altering your exercise regimen according to the phases of menstrual cycle can help you work out without being too harsh to your body.
Q. How do I train according to my menstrual cycle?
Being aware of the hormonal changes in the body taking place throughout the menstrual cycle allows you to understand your heavy-workout and light-workout periods. Choosing exercises as per the phases of menstrual cycle allows you to reap the best workout results without harming or hurting your body.
Q. How does your menstrual cycle affect exercise?
Levels of oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and LH vary with different stages of menstrual cycle.
- In the menstrual phase, the hormone levels are low, which keeps you low on energy. Also, bleeding makes you more prone to stomach cramps. Therefore exercise levels must be low and light.
- In the follicular and ovulation phase, the oestrogen levels are high. You can indulge in high-intensity training.
- In the luteal phase, oestrogen levels are dropping while progesterone levels are rising. One needs to gradually slow down training and focus on adequate recovery.
Q. What exercise should be done during periods?
The periods or the bleeding phase of the menstrual cycle require light and easy exercises. Low-intensity cardio, low-volume strength training, yoga, pilates, lightweight sculpt training, swimming, bike riding and walking are the best exercises during periods.