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Can Exercise Reduce Menstrual Pain?

Can Exercise Reduce Menstrual Pain?

When you experience period cramps or primary dysmenorrhea, it’s natural to want to just stay in bed until the pain goes away (secondary dysmenorrhea is one that results from reproductive health issues). However, many reports are saying that a good way to find relief is to get moving. Physical activity can reduce menstrual discomfort. But what exercise can reduce menstrual pain? Read on to find out.

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Exercise During Menstruation – Is it Safe?

Women experience menstruation differently. Some go about their days without a problem, while others may experience such discomfort that they often need to skip work or school, so that they can rest and recover.

But whether you feel fine or unwell, experts say that it’s alright to exercise. However, your energy level may affect your performance of certain kinds of physical activity.

For instance, some studies revealed that women who have already ovulated but were not yet on their period found it hard to complete endurance exercises during hot, humid weather.

For this reason, it may be best to stick to an exercise that may reduce menstrual pain but will not wear you out.

If your workout leads to pain or discomfort, consider low-impact activities in the meantime.

exercises to relieve menstrual cramps

Can Exercise Reduce Menstrual Pain?

Now that we have established that it’s okay to engage in physical activities during menstruation, it’s time to answer this question: Can exercise relieve menstrual cramps?

Medically, you still cannot consider working out as a cure-all for period woes.

But because numerous women attest to how physical activities have helped reduce menstrual pain, some researchers have taken the initiative to verify their claims.

Aerobic Exercises

In a 2015 study, several researchers revealed that aerobic workouts may help improve dysmenorrhea symptoms. In the said research:

  • Participants were 70 university students who were suffering from primary dysmenorrhea.
  • Afterward, they divided the subjects into 2 groups – control and intervention.
  • The intervention group performed aerobic exercises 3 times a week for 8 weeks, with each session lasting for 30 minutes.
  • Participants from both groups received a validated visual questionnaire to measure their menstrual pain.
  • The students answered the questionnaire in the first 3 days of each of their menstrual cycles while they were participating in the study.
  • Initially, after 4 weeks, there was no significant difference between the control and intervention groups.
  • But after 8 weeks, results revealed that the intervention group “showed significant changes compared to the control group”.

The investigators’ conclusion was: an aerobic exercise can be used to reduce symptoms like menstrual pain.

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Zumba

Another exercise that can potentially reduce menstrual pain is Zumba. In a randomized control trial, the researchers:

  • Invited 98 women diagnosed with primary dysmenorrhea.
  • Afterward, they divided the participants into two groups: control and intervention.
  • The control group did not engage in physical activity. On the other hand, the subjects in the intervention group engaged in Zumba exercises for 1 hour, twice a week, for a period of 8 weeks.
  • Dysmenorrhea pain was measured using a visual analog scale on the 4th and 8th weeks of the study. Furthermore, the researchers also measured the duration of pain in both the control and intervention groups.
  • The results of the study revealed that the severity of menstrual pain significantly decreased in the intervention group (those who exercised) compared to the control group.
  • Moreover, the duration of pain was also shorter in the intervention group compared to the control group.

In their study, the investigators concluded that: a regular Zumba exercise can reduce the duration and severity of menstrual pain. Hence, it can be used as a complementary treatment for primary dysmenorrhea.

Yoga

If you’re looking for a relaxing exercise to reduce menstrual pain, yoga might just be the answer.

In a 12-week study that aimed to determine the effect of yoga exercises in physical fitness, menstrual pain, and quality of life, the investigators:

  • Invited 34 women aged 18 to 22 years old. All of them have primary dysmenorrhea.
  • They then divided them into 2 groups: the control and the Yoga group.
  • The yoga group engaged in a customized yoga routine for 30 minutes, twice a week, for 12 weeks. On the other hand, the control group did not perform any kind of exercise.
  • The subjects’ physical fitness, menstrual pain, and quality of life were evaluated and compared to the baseline data the researchers collected at the start of the research.

Results revealed that there was a significant improvement in the yoga group’s physical fitness, menstrual pain, and quality of life compared to the control group.

Some Reminders

From the studies specified above, it’s clear that certain types of workouts can reduce menstrual pain.

However, please note that the subjects of the studies performed the physical activities not just on the days when they were having period cramps. They exercised regularly for at least 8 weeks.

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Other Home Remedies for Menstrual Pain

Although the potential of exercise in improving period cramps was promising, don’t forget that there are other ways to find comfort.

When suffering from menstrual pain, you can also:

  • Have a warm bath.
  • Apply a heating pad on your lower belly.
  • Perform techniques that reduce stress, such as breathing exercises.
  • Ask your doctor for dietary supplements that could help such as vitamins B1 and B6, as well as magnesium.
  • Refrain from smoking, as they could worsen period cramps.

Key Takeaways

Can exercise reduce menstrual pain? According to the studies above, they could. But always remember to prioritize your health. If you don’t feel well enough to exercise, it would be better to get some rest, until you feel better.

And, of course, when your period cramps disrupt your ability to perform activities of daily living, consult your doctor for proper assessment and treatment.

Learn more about Women’s Health here.

Ovulation Calculator

Ovulation Calculator

Tracking your period cycle, determines your most fertile days and increases your chance of conceiving or applying for birth control.

Ovulation Calculator

Tracking your period cycle, determines your most fertile days and increases your chance of conceiving or applying for birth control.

Ovulation Calculator

Cycle Length

(days)

28

Period Duration

(days)

7

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

The Effect of aerobic exercise on primary dysmenorrhea: A clinical trial study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5791467/
Accessed October 2, 2020

The role of exercise in the treatment of menstrual disorders: the evidence
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2662100/
Accessed October 2, 2020

The Effect of Zumba Exercise on Reducing Menstrual Pain in Young Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Controlled Trial
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S108331881930213X
Accessed October 2, 2020

Physical activity and your menstrual cycle
https://www.womenshealth.gov/getting-active/physical-activity-menstrual-cycle#5
Accessed October 2, 2020

Effect of yoga on the menstrual pain, physical fitness, and quality of life of young women with primary dysmenorrhea
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29037637/
Accessed October 2, 2020

Home Remedies: Managing menstrual cramps
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/home-remedies-managing-menstrual-cramps/
Accessed October 2, 2020

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Apr 08
Medically reviewed by Danielle Joanne Villanueva Munji, OTRP
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