Love to exercise? Or plan to start? Here’s how your period can affect a workout

My Hormonology

Love to exercise? Or plan to start? Here’s how your period can affect a workout

treadmillEvery time I resume my exercise regimen–running and weight-training–after having let it lapse awhile, I remember just how much I love to sweat it out and push my body to the limit. By the end of a rigorous session, I’m totally high-fiving myself. (And enjoying a blissful post-workout surge in testosterone.)

If you regularly exercise or play sports–or you plan to start (or restart) a workout regimen or sport at some point–you may wonder if your monthly cycle can impact how difficult it is to do.

Well, surprise, surprise, there’s a bunch of research on that very topic!

Today, let’s focus on exercise, sports and your period:

A lot of people presume that during menstruation, it’s more difficult to push yourself physically. This isn’t exactly the case. Here’s why:

In several studies (including this one and this one), researchers have found that if you’ve already developed a consistent workout or sports routine, you’re not only likely to continue exercising and playing throughout your period, you probably won’t feel it’s any more difficult to do than at other phases of your cycle. (The exception is women who have abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding or severe cramps, which, let’s face it, could hobble The Incredible Hulk under the right circumstances.)

As the researchers explain, steady long-term training helps you override a period-related slowdown so it’s easier to stick to your workout or sports routine no matter what’s going on downstairs.

This is not the case, however, with women who are just starting a new workout routine or beginning a new sport.

If you’ve gone from couch-surfing to taking your first class at Fat Blasting Boot Camp or your first tennis lesson and you’ve got your period, 2011 research in the Journal of Women’s Health shows you may feel it’s a bit more tiring and painful to do.

The problem is that low estrogen plus period-related discomfort is sapping your oomph and making you more sensitive to exercise-related aches.

This is not an awesome combination for mustering motivation to make it to your second exercise class or sports training. So, if you’re launching a new workout or sports program after months, maybe years, of sporadic or no exercise, it may be better for you to schedule your launch date to coincide with the end of your period, which is also when estrogen has risen to more energizing, pain-reducing levels.

If you keep up your new routine, by the time your period rolls around the following cycle, you may have developed the kind of consistency that helps you work out or play your game without being bothered by menstrual-related tiredness and aches.

Bonus tip: Need more motivation to keep up your exercise or sports routine? If you’re using it to help lose weight to reach your optimal body mass index, then I’d like to remind you that your body burns up to 30% more fat during exercise throughout your entire Week 3 (which starts right after ovulation) and most of your Week 4 (your premenstrual week) thanks to the combination of progesterone and estrogen, which makes your body more efficient at burning fat as fuel.

And if you’re happy with your weight, well, then you get to eat just a little more during this phase with impunity.

Now that’s my kind of hormonal benefit!

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