The 9 Best Exercises to Ease Period Pain
Period problems got you down? Don’t let Mother Nature get in the way. These exercises and yoga poses will help banish menstrual cramps, lower back pain, bloating, and more.
WorkoutsCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind during your time of the month—but it could be the ticket to feeling like yourself again. Besides providing an extra dose of mood-boosting endorphins, exercising during your period is shown to help relieve abdominal cramps, bloating, headaches, and lower back pain. Tanya Becker, co-founder and chief creative officer of Physique 57, a barre fitness studio in New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, and Bangkok, walks us through the best exercises for easing period pain. These are the 8 period problems you should never ignore.
Pelvic tucksCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
Lie on the floor and place your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Slowly lift your hips off the floor and up, then gently lower down one vertebra at time. Lift and lower slowly for one to two minutes. Why it works: “Getting the blood to circulate to the lower back muscles, while also gently strengthening them, is a great way to relieve lower back pain,” says Becker. Don’t miss our 11-step period survival guide—it’s a game changer.
Top tapsCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
When it’s that time of the month, Katie Dunlop, founder of Love Sweat Fitness, uses this as her go-to move. Lie on your back with your forearms at your side. Raise your feet off the floor to 90 degrees and lower right leg to tap toes on the floor, return to starting position and repeat with left leg. Continue to alternate sides. Engage your core. Why it works: It works the lower abdominal muscles and relieve cramps.
Thigh dancingCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
Sit in a kneeling position with knees hip-width apart and your bottom on your heels. Lift your hips a couple of inches off your heels and gently roll your hips forward and back. Make sure to contract your abs as you roll your hips forward and let out a strong exhale. Try to tuck your hips forward and back 30 times at a moderate pace. Feeling up for a challenge? Becker suggests lifting your arms above your head to increase difficulty. Why it works: “This exercise simultaneously strengthens your abs, while also working your thigh muscles,” says Becker. “You’ll get a little endorphin rush that will improve your mood and also boost your metabolic rate, which will help you burn more calories (and feel less bloated) if you need that extra piece of chocolate.” Pro tip: Put on your favorite hip-shaking music to get motivated!
Glute liftsCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
Place your forearms on a sturdy piece of furniture (like the back of your sofa) or kitchen counter and walk your feet far enough forward so that your body makes and “L” shape. Extend your right leg out straight while keeping your left leg slightly bent. Begin to lift and lower your right leg up and down (floor to hip height) while engaging your abs. Make sure not to arch your back. Try to lift and lower for 60 seconds on each leg. You can also try doing this exercise on the floor: Lie on your back with your left leg bent and your right leg lifted straight out in front of you. Raise your hips and keep the left leg bent and right leg lifted. With your hips lifted, lower your right leg up and down (parallel to the floor and up to the ceiling). Lift and lower for 60 seconds on each leg. Why it works: “This exercise strengthens your entire core which can help reduce lower back pain,” says Becker. “Also, working your abs in this position will help you feel less bloated.” Here are nine daily habits that will help keep belly bloating in check, too.
The RocketteCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
Lie on your back and lift your legs straight up above your hips. While engaging your abs, lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor. Gently lower one leg towards the floor, then start to slowly scissor your legs. You can hold on to each leg as it comes towards your chest for extra stretch and support. Try to scissor legs up and down for 30 seconds. Why it works: “While it may seem counter intuitive to contract your abs when you’re experiencing period cramps, this movement can help aid in relief,” says Becker. “It also helps release hip and hamstring tightness, which can lead to lower back pain.” But working out isn’t the only way to fight period pain. Here are seven unusual tips worth trying.
YogaCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
According to a study in the 2016 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, women in Taiwan who participated in a short-term yoga exercise intervention reported, “fewer physical premenstrual symptoms associated with a lower risk of menstrual pain.” Plus, the practice is best known for boosting energy, decreasing anxiety, and improving overall mood. Here, Hope Zvara, yoga teacher, functional fitness expert, and creator of Core Functional Fitness, shows us her go-to poses.
Reclined bound angleCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
With a bolster or tightly-rolled blanket flush with the sacrum (the triangular bone in your lower back), running parallel with the spine, slowly begin to lie back. You’ll feel a gentle stretch in the lower back. Inhale, and let your knees drop open and the bottoms of the feet come together to form a diamond shape and open the groin. Support the knees if necessary with blocks or couch pillows at the outer thigh/knee. With palms facing up, slide the arms out away from the body to a comfortable position. Remain here for three to five minutes, focusing on deep inhales and exhales. Why it works: “This pose soothes the lower back and opens the hips, which often can feel achy during one’s menstrual cycle,” says Zvara. “It stretches the abdomen to ease cramping and reduces stress and anxiety.”
Seated leg forward bendCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
Starting in a seated position with your legs stretched out in front of you. (If your legs feel tight, tight place yoga blocks under your knees or sit on a blanket or cushion.) On an exhale, hinge from the hips and slowly fold forward. Keep your sitting bones grounded and spine long as the body lowers towards the legs. With the shoulders relaxed, outstretch your arms towards your feet or shins to keep length in the lower back (use a strap if your arms can’t reach your legs comfortably). Inhale, extend the sternum towards the toes, and exhale and relax towards the legs, making sure you don’t round in the mid body. Exhale and focus on drawing the belly inward to massage the lower abdomen. Continue for one to three minutes, gently folding towards the legs. Why it works: “The bend brings relief to the lower back and sacrum, which can become tight and stiff during your period,” says Zvara. “It also helps to relax the abdomen, bring relief to headaches and migraines, and reduce mood swings.”
Seated twistCourtesy Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness
Starting in a seated position on the floor with the legs extended out in front of you, draw the right leg up so that your right foot is near your left knee on the floor, then drop the knee open (if the hips are tight and the knee floats, prop the bent leg or sit on a cushion). Sitting tall, flex the extended leg, keeping your bottom touching the floor. Inhale, extend the left arm up towards the ceiling and begin to rotate the spine towards the bent leg without lifting either hip from the floor. Exhale and continue into the twist, spindling the top arm open and back behind the spine to help sit tall. Roll the shoulder open. Breathing mindfully: work up the spine with each full breath twisting at the belly, lower ribs, heart, shoulders, neck, head and eyes. Work with this twist for seven to ten breaths. Repeat on other side. Why it works: “The twist brings relief to the abdomen with a great massage—and liberation to the entire back, where tension is often carried during this time of month due to physical discomfort that can occur.” Along with these poses, here are the nine easy yoga poses you should be doing every day—period or not.