The Benefits of Doing Walking Workouts During Your Period

No need to skip exercise—a brisk walk could even be beneficial

Woman walking on a path
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Bloating, menstrual cramps, the inconvenience of needing tampons and pads—all of these can prevent you from working out during your period. But research shows that exercises like walking, riding, biking, and swimming during your menstrual days can ease frustrating symptoms like dysmenorrhoea and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It may even improve your workout performance.

Benefits of Walking During Your Period

It's harder to get out the door or on the treadmill for your walk when you're dealing with pain, tenderness, headaches, or bloat, all of which fall under PMS, which affects more than 90% of women. But by keeping up with your workout schedule—even if that means shorter or less intense physical activity—you can nix some PMS symptoms and maintain your fitness gains at the same time. Here are some ways walking can be helpful during your period:

Reduces PMS Pain

A 2013 study analyzed how eight weeks of exercise impacted 40 "non-athlete" females during their periods. Researchers found that consistent aerobic exercise, particularly walking and swimming, effectively reduced cramps, headaches, and breast tenderness. They attribute this gain to endorphins and their role in reducing cortisol levels. Bonus, physical activity also combats bloating, a common complaint of PMS.

Fights Depression

Similarly, physical activity can have a significant impact on your psychological state. PMS can cause depression, mood swings, anxiety, and irritability among other emotions, but engaging in physical activity can increase serotonin levels, equip you with better sleep that enhances brain function, and provide you with a sense of accomplishment.

Boosts Muscle Strength

Your estrogen levels ebb and flow during menstruation but are particularly high during the middle of your period. Studies have shown that increased levels improve muscle fibers that generate force and strength. Similarly, a 2016 analysis found that cardiac and respiratory efficiency is highest during the luteal (latter) phase of the menstrual cycle.

That said, results can vary from person to person and other factors, such as whether you're taking hormonal birth control may have an effect. While anecdotally, women have won marathons on a day they were menstruating, some studies have shown that motor control and muscle laxity decrease during the beginning of your period. Ultimately, you have to listen to your own body and what you can handle.

Choosing Menstrual Products for Exercise

You may have to use a more absorbent product than usual, especially if you'll be walking for a longer time. If you normally only use tampons, you may find that a pad works better for walking or you want to wear a pad as well as a tampon. Or, consider bringing a replacement with you if you're heading out on a longer workout. Physical activity might cause shifting and you may have difficulty keeping a tampon or pad in place and absorbing the menstrual blood.

When training for a marathon or other long-distance event, schedule at least one of your longer training runs for a day when you'll be menstruating so you can find out ahead of time if you have any preference. Keep in mind that though your calendar might say you won't be on your period on race day, the excitement and preparation for the race may result in getting off schedule. Stress, for example, has been linked to menstrual irregularities.

Coping With Menstrual Moments During Exercise

Marathon runner Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon in 2015 without wearing a tampon or pad, and her menstrual blood was visible. Gandhi did this intentionally to dispel the stigma of menstruation and show support for women who have no access to feminine hygiene products. Many other competitors in races have run as their periods started during the race unintentionally or their products failed.

If you prefer, one way to hide the blood is to choose darker colors for your shorts or pants, such as red, brown, or black. Wearing a running skirt may help hide any leakage. In case of unexpected leakage, you may want to tie a scarf around your hips as an impromptu skirt and bring a change of clothing along to a race in your gear drop bag.

Keep in mind that during a marathon, your fellow racers of both genders may be having similar issues, including diarrhea from runner's trots, bladder control problems, and simply not wanting to stop at the portable toilets.

A Word From Verywell

While having your period may be frustrating—the cramps, bloating, headaches, mood swings—remember that it's a natural part of the female body and nearly every woman is contending with the same symptoms. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It may be tempting to huddle up on the couch and refrain from exercise during your period, but even gentle exercise, whether it's walking, yoga, or swimming, has been proven to make you feel more comfortable, uplifted, and consistent with your fitness goals.

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