Pilates Moves to Do During Your Period

Woman doing the Wall roll down

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Your exercise routine during "that time of the month" can get disrupted when cramps, back pain, and other cyclic symptoms come out to play. Yet, not all types of exercise will make you feel worse. Some Pilates moves can genuinely help alleviate period-related symptoms in a variety of ways.

How Pilates Can Help During Your Period

Whether it's premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or mid-flow menstrual symptoms that have you feeling sub-par, Pilates may help. For instance, one review of research argued that doing this type of exercise provides the body a boost of oxygen that can reduce the release of a hormone related to period pain.

Another piece of research called physical activity in general "the most important factor" for treating PMS. So, if your goal is to reduce your period-related symptoms, test drive a few of these moves and see if you don't feel a bit better.

3 Pilates Menstrual Cramp Exercises

If you're new to Pilates and unsure what to do, it may be helpful to look over the Pilates principles. These involve using both the body and mind to perform the movements. It can also be beneficial to do deep breathing during Pilates. This helps get more oxygen and nutrients to your cells.

Before beginning this or any exercise program, consult with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do given your health and fitness level.

Pilates Lunges

overhead lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Pilates lunges get the blood flowing to the larger muscle groups and draw your senses to the periphery of the body rather than its center, which may take your focus off monthly cramps. By targeting the larger muscle groups, you'll also increase your metabolism and rev up your energy, combatting the fatigue associated with your period.

Use Pilates lunges as your warmup to heat the body and prepare it for the rest of the workout.

To do these lunges, stand tall with your feet together in a "Y" shape, placing the heel of the front foot in the arch of the back foot. Hold 1–3 pound weights in each hand. You can also use a medicine ball, as in the image, or a kettlebell works too.

Inhale as you lunge the front leg out, stepping into it and leaning forward as you stretch the back leg straight. The arms lift overhead as you lunge. In one brisk move, exhale as you step back to your starting position. Repeat eight to 10 times and then switch sides.

Pilates Seated Side Bends

Pilates Seated Side Bend

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Abdominal moves that target the rectus (or six pack) can be uncomfortable during your period. Instead, focus on your obliques with the side bend. Side bends are a great upper-body strengthener and waist whittler for those times when you aren't comfortable lying on your stomach.

To do them, sit on one hip with one arm under you for support and legs long out to the side. Lift up on your feet and one hand into a side plank. If you can stack your legs together, one atop the other, do so. If not, simply place one foot in front of the other.

Look towards your top shoulder and rest your upper arm along your body. Lower your hip down towards the mat under you and lift back up. Go lower and deeper with each repetition. Repeat five to eight times and switch sides. 

Rolling Down the Wall

Wall roll down

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Rolling down the wall will ease the low back pain that accompanies PMS or your period by relaxing tight back muscles and restoring symmetry. When back pain happens, muscles tighten up. Use this wall exercise any time of the day to offset monthly back soreness.

Stand leaning against the wall with both feet one step ahead of you. Hold the feet in a small "V" with heels together and toes apart. Hang the arms long by your side and draw your abdominals inward and upward to open your lower back by pressing it towards the wall. You may bend your knees slightly to stretch the low back.

Drop your head, then shoulders and arms and begin slowly peeling off the wall one vertebra at a time. Go about halfway down your spine and let the arms just hang loose. Roll back up smoothly pressing each part of your back firmly into the wall as you rise back up. Breathe naturally as you go. Repeat three times total.

Putting Them All Together

Pick one or all three moves to boost your mood and energy during your period. Odds are you'll feel good enough to tackle a​ full mat workout or just a few extra exercises by the time you are done with these three.

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  1. Sari L. Pilates exercises on mental control of dysmenorrhea patients. ISOR J Nursing Health Sci. 2020;9(1):45-7.

  2. Samadi Z. Taaghian F, Valiani M. Effects of Pilates and aerobic exercise on symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in non-athlete girls. Journal of Isfahan Medical School. 2013;30:1880-91.