As if finding the motivation to hit the gym for an intense cardio workout wasn’t bad enough, add some fatigue, cramps, and headaches to the mix once a month, and it’s a whole new battle. Some women have no added menstrual symptoms during their cycle and are able to continue with their regular routines. Surely those women are not human. The rest of us, less fortunate women, suffer various symptoms which can leave us in bed or keeled over in a hot shower. Discomforts can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days for some women, and the last thing a girl wants to do during that time is put on tennis shoes and head to the gym.

Will a workout really help my cramps?

I want to say no. I want to tell you to stay in bed with that heating pad and pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but unfortunately, exercise has been proven to ease menstrual cramps. It seems counterintuitive and the thought of moving your body or lifting anything remotely heavy is almost amusing, but aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins which act like a natural morphine.

Alternatives to high intensity cardio.

If you really don’t want to hit the treadmill or hop on a bike – which is understandable – there are other, less intense cardio exercises you can do to help relieve cramps. The key to releasing endorphins is to get your heartrate up. This can be achieved through a moderate-intensity workout right in your own home.

Yoga Mat Cardio

When you really can’t muster the strength to get up, but you are feeling guilty for missing your workouts, there are various exercises that can be performed on the ground or on a yoga mat. For example; planks, side planks sit ups, push-ups, and many other body weight exercises.

Stationary Cardio

Stationary cardio is simple and can be performed anywhere. Which is perfect when the last thing you want to do is put on gym clothes and go out in public. A few examples of stationary cardio are squats, lunges, jumping jacks, squat jumps, burpees, and wall sits. You can make these sets as intense or as moderate as your body is comfortable with.


A nice long walk can take the place of your daily workouts when you are feeling fatigued and uncomfortable. A brisk walk, fast enough to raise your heartrate, is a great alternative to the gym.

Having cramps during workouts when it’s not that time?

Some women experience menstrual-like cramps during and after cardio workouts or running, despite the fact that they are not on their period. If you are one of these women, you are not alone. Surprisingly, it is not that uncommon, however, it can be a serious underlying health issue.

There are a handful of reasons why a woman can experience period-like cramps after cardio, ranging from dehydration, hormone imbalance, ovarian cysts, and even a “tilted uterus”. Most cases are resolved by increasing water intake or a prescription of low dose birth control pills. Some very rare cases are serious enough to require medical attention. If you experience pains similar to this, be sure to monitor them and see your doctor if necessary.

Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

It is important to take care of your body by feeding it healthy, well balanced foods and working out regularly. Decreasing the amount and intensity of your workouts is not something to feel guilty about, and your body will be greatly appreciative. If you treat your body well by respecting and acknowledging your limits, your body will take care of you in return.

Micah Larsen

Micah is a traveling swim coach and personal trainer, depending on the season. She is also currently working on her Master of Science in Athletic Administration and Coaching. Micah loves to live an active lifestyle, whether she is competing in open water swims, running a road race, practicing yoga, or biking with her dogs. The main objective in her career is to... Read More

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