Exercise Including Gentle Yoga Can Reduce Period Cramps
New research finds exercise can reduce pain during menstrual periods.
Posted Sep 24, 2019
New research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews has found that exercising regularly is a helpful way to reduce the pain that occurs during periods.
Around 80 percent of women experience menstrual cramping or “period pain” in their lifetime. In about 5 to 10 percent of women, the pain is so severe that it can be disruptive to their daily life. In 40 percent of women, period pain occurs in addition to premenstrual symptoms such as moodiness, fatigue, and bloating.
The new study analyzed data across 10 different clinical trials including a total of 754 women. Nine of the 10 studies compared exercise to no treatment and one study looked at exercise compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
The study found that exercise ranging from low-intensity yoga to high-intensity aerobics were all helpful to reduce period pain. The majority of these studies asked participants to exercise at least three times weekly about 45 to 60 minutes at a time. It is unclear if exercising less frequently could have the same benefit for reducing period pain. There was not enough research to determine whether exercise was better than pain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
While this area of research needs more in-depth study, exercise can be a useful and beneficial treatment option for women who are experiencing period pain. Doing vigorous exercise can be very challenging with period pain, so gentler mind-body practices like yoga and tai chi can be good options.
Two styles of yoga, in particular, may be helpful during period pain: restorative yoga and Yin yoga. These styles of yoga are slower paced and hold postures for five to ten minutes each.
Teaching poses where one’s body is upside down, also called inversions, should be avoided during menstrual periods. Inversions include postures such as shoulder stand or headstand.
Yoga during periods aims at nurturing a calming, grounding, and gentle experience. Focusing on smooth, slow, and gentle breathing can also enhance a sense of peace and calm during your yoga practice.
Here are yoga poses that you may find supportive during your period:
Standing Forward Fold
Knees to Chest
Reclining Bound Angle