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    Running during your period actually has some great benefits. Here’s why

    Updated 23 February 2021 |
    Published 07 December 2018
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Rodion Salimgaraev, MD, Therapist
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    Learn how running during your period can alleviate PMS discomfort and even boost your mood.

    Does the thought of running during your period make you want to chuck your jogging shoes in the closet? If you’re concerned about how periods may affect your running routine, you’re in good company. For many reasons, people may feel like skipping exercise during their periods. Thankfully, you can still do activities such as running safely while menstruating. Exercising or performing many other kinds of physical activity, including running during your period, can actually help reduce discomfort and boost your mood. 

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    Sticking with a running routine can alleviate some of the symptoms that accompany menstruation. For example, running on your period may elevate your mood by releasing endorphins, as well as relieve cramps and back pain associated with periods.

    How the menstrual cycle affects your running

    Although every person’s body is unique, the average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. In this case, ovulation will occur on approximately day 14 of the menstrual cycle. The first half of the menstrual cycle is known as the follicular phase, while the second half of the cycle is called the luteal phase. 

    The follicular phase starts with the onset of each period and lasts for approximately 14 days (ranging from 10 to 16 days). After your period, which can last for two to seven days, estrogen levels rise and peak around day 14, just before ovulation. Then, a surge in luteinizing hormone occurs, prompting ovulation. The levels of another hormone called progesterone remain low for this phase. 

    During the luteal phase, which usually lasts for around 14 days, progesterone levels rise. After ovulation, estrogen levels drop. If no fertilization of the egg occurs, the levels of both progesterone and estrogen drop abruptly. The luteal phase ends with the start of menstruation, and the cycle begins again. 

    If you experience heavy bleeding during menses, then the hemoglobin concentration of your blood may decrease. Since hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells that transports oxygen, this drop in hemoglobin can temporarily affect your blood’s oxygen-carrying ability. 

    Some menstruating runners may develop a condition called false anemia or sports anemia, in which the iron levels of the blood become low after physical activity. Athletes tend to have lower hemoglobin concentrations than people leading a more sedentary lifestyle. As a result, this false anemia is an adaptation to aerobic exercise like running.

    Your body temperature changes throughout the menstrual cycle. It peaks during the luteal phase of the cycle in response to the increase in progesterone. This means your body’s cooling functions don’t switch on as quickly. Your body’s temperature is lower during the follicular phase due to higher estrogen levels. 

    Running during either the follicular or the luteal phase can be done safely. If you choose to exercise outside during the luteal phase, your temperature may remain elevated, especially in hot weather. This is important to keep in mind, as you will not start sweating to cool down until your body has reached a higher temperature. However, maintaining a consistent exercise routine can enhance your body’s ability to regulate temperature over time. 

    Fluctuations in hormone levels can impact your running performance. Estrogen may enhance endurance by altering the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and progesterone may oppose these effects of estrogen. Eating plenty of high-fiber carbohydrates can also help fuel your runs, especially in the follicular phase of your cycle.