Menstrual cycle and exercise: the best workouts for each cycle phase
Optimise your training by syncing it with your menstrual cycle with our list of the best exercises for each cycle phase, as recommended by a hormone expert.
Every month, women experience the ups and downs of their menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, many suffer from backaches, headaches, mood swings, and other unpleasant PMS symptoms during the menstrual phase.
One effective method to counteract these symptoms is adjusting your diet and tailoring your nutritional intake according to the cycle phases. Another powerful approach is exercise, which can significantly influence your hormone balance, resulting in increased efficiency and overall balance. The right type of exercise at the right time will also help make weight loss or muscle-building goals much more effective.
Say goodbye to exercise-aggravated PMS and performance slumps with our handy guide on exercise during your menstrual cycle, featuring the expert advice of hormone balance coach Laura van de Vorst, who shared the optimal training plan coordinated with the four phases of the cycle to positively impact your hormone balance through tailored training in each of your cycle phases, and unlock newfound energy and balance.
Matching your training to each cycle phase
Familiarise yourself with the four different phases of your cycle and discover the best exercise to do at each stage. Laura van de Vorst gives her advice.
First Phase: Follicular Phase
Recommended exercise: Jogging, Hiking, Flow Yoga
The follicular phase begins on the first day after menstruation. "During this phase, your energy levels are high, and you are open to new challenges," explains Laura. It's the perfect time to explore new workouts, fitness classes, and sports activities.
"However, your testosterone levels are still low," she advises. "Avoid pushing yourself too hard and overexerting yourself. Opt for moderate cardio exercises such as light jogging, hiking, walking, and yoga." Check out our guide on the easiest yoga poses for beginners to kick things off.
Second Phase: Ovulation Phase
Recommended exercise: HIIT, Bootcamp, Spinning
The second phase marks ovulation, during which your testosterone and oestrogen levels rise rapidly, reaching their peak. According to Laura, "You'll feel like you can conquer the world at this point. It's the perfect time for functional training, strength training, running, and HIIT workouts. You may also enjoy socialising and prefer group workouts like boot camps, dance classes, or spinning."
Third Phase: Luteal Phase
Recommended exercise: Strength Training, Pilates, Swimming
In the luteal phase, the body prepares for the possible implantation of an egg. Testosterone levels decrease while oestrogen and progesterone increase. Women experiencing PMS often have elevated oestrogen levels, making it challenging for the body to break down the hormone.
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Fortunately, you can provide support. Laura explains, "The first half of the luteal phase is ideal for Pilates, intense types of yoga, and strength training to reduce oestrogen and increase testosterone. These exercises also aid in fat loss and muscle building."
As menstruation approaches, it's recommended to take it easier. "The second half of the luteal phase is perfect for moderate sports such as gentle yoga, moderate strength training, swimming, or cycling."
Fourth Phase: Menstrual Phase
Recommended exercise: Yin Yoga, Walks
During the final phase of your cycle, you experience menstruation, and your hormone levels reach their natural low point.
Laura emphasises the importance of listening to your body and providing it with what it needs. "Avoid pushing your limits and steer clear of stress. Rest becomes paramount during this phase, so prioritise activities such as yin yoga, kundalini yoga, meditative walks, and ensuring you get plenty of sleep."
Harness the power of your menstrual cycle
By adapting your training to the different phases of your menstrual cycle, you can unlock a new level of synergy between your body and exercise routine. Embrace this approach, and you'll not only experience improved physical performance but also enhanced overall wellbeing. Listen to your body, adjust your workouts accordingly, and feel the transformative effects of a harmonised training routine.
If you want more expert tips and recommendations, check out our pages on wellness and fitness. We've got you covered with guides including the best yoga poses for flexibility, tips for better sleep, and full body workouts to do at home.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.