Yes, periods are painful and all we deserve to do is sleep, sulk, and eat loads of Rocky Road ice cream. Between cramps and bloating, a lot of us feel like we don’t even want to move an inch during our period. However, some women actually prefer exercising as a method of increasing endorphins in their bodies and reducing period fatigue and pain. In fact, exercise can cause certain changes in period flow, menstrual cycle, and the like.
Keep in mind that exercise alone does not cause irregularity in periods. Change in periods can occur due to a change in energy consumption in the body, which exercise can affect. To all of those out there who have experienced random bleeding, spotting, and light period flow, these changes in your cycle might owe themselves to other changes in your regular exercise routine.
So here are some ways that your period might be affected by that Chloe Ting workout or Crossfit gym you just started:
1. Low energy availability
It may so happen that when one starts exercising, she/they start losing more energy than what they are retaining within their body. This is referred to as “low energy availability” and it causes energy to be dispensed only to the very essential organs in the body that are needed for survival.
As a result, the body’s hypothalamus slows down the production of ovulation hormones to conserve energy and tackle energy loss. This results in an irregularity of the menstrual cycle, which can present itself as a delay in periods and or a change the menstruation pattern of the people who have periods.
2. Breakthrough bleeding
Breakthrough bleeding actually refers to random vaginal bleeding outside of periods, including spotting. Adding regular exercise into your normal routine can a change in your hormone levels that might interfere with cyclic buildup and send mixed signals to the uterus causing the walls to randomly shed.
This can result in periods or spotting occurring outside of the normal cycle. Exercise-caused hormonal changes can also result in a decreased period flow, so much so that light bleeding might simply replace regular flow. For some athletes, extremely intense workouts can also result in missed periods.
3. Period cramps
Now, there are two sides to the cramps story. Some people have suffered from higher and more painful cramps when they have exercised or engaged in strenuous activity. For others, exercise actually has helped reducing cramps.
Period cramps occur due to prostaglandins which are a group of lipids that deal with tissue damage and are therefore helpful to your body in dealing with uterine shedding. And, the pain from this is very, very real. Exercise might however help in releasing endorphins that can tackle the pain of contracting uterine muscles.
4. Exercise-induced amenorrhea
Remember what we said about really intense exercising? Well in some cases, due to over-exercising and not having readily available energy in the body to tackle the loss in energy, it might result in amenorrhea. Amenorrhea refers to the absence of periods. Intense exercises result in the overproduction of stress hormones that interfere with the production of reproductive hormones in the body causing abnormally low levels of estrogen. This results in the complete absence of periods. However, this occurs only when the body reaches the ‘starvation state’ (amount of energy expended by the body, not at par with the nutritional intake).
Broadly speaking, exercise is considered a good way to produce endorphins. Light exercises and non-strenuous activities might even alleviate period cramps, nausea, bloating, and fatigue. Aerobic exercises and cardio work well to keep the body healthy during menstruation. However, if you feel shitty and want to sleep (like I always do), you can also just lie in bed and wait for the cramps to disappear while you gorge on your favorite comfort food. We’ve all been there.
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