You’re armed with a heating pad, pain meds, and enough food to stock a mini-mart. But what you really need is to break a sweat.
That’s because exercise can ease period-induced cramps, bloating, and (dare we say) irritability. To jumpstart your period and get things flowing, the inner lining of your uterus releases cramp-causing prostaglandins, making your uterine muscles contract, you double over in pain—and your tampon-pad combination prove inefficient. By increasing blood flow, exercise speeds up your body’s breakdown of those chemicals, says Julie M. Levitt, M.D., a 14-time marathoner and board-certified ob-gyn with the Women’s Group of Northwestern in Chicago.
Plus, exercise raises your levels of endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers and mood boosters. And if you’re prone to bloating or constipation, exercise can prove doubly beneficial by promoting the poops and relieving abdominal pressure, says Levitt. (Learn why running sometimes gives you the runs.) Just make sure you stay hydrated: After all, when you’re exercising on your period, you’re losing more fluids than just sweat.
Still, working out tends to be the last thing women want to do when they’re on their period—which makes pushing through your menstrual miseries to hit the gym all the more rewarding and, yes, hilarious and irrationally frustrating. Here are 10 things every woman thinks while sweating it out with Aunt Flo.