Last updated: 11 June 2024
5 min read

The Effects Of Swimming, Yoga And Over-Exercising On Your Period

Welcome to Never Asked Questions, where we answer the questions you've always wanted to know about training to your menstrual cycle.

There are a lot of questions around what you can and can't do when on your period, and how parents can help their kids when they ask similar questions. We've got the answers below.

1) Can I Do Yoga Inversions On My Period?

2) Can I Swim on my Period?

3) Can I Exercise My Period Away?

1. What’s The Deal With Yoga Inversions On My Period?

To go upside down when on your period or not? It’s a big question mark in the yogi world. Just so we’re clear, inversions are poses where your uterus is completely turned upside down, like Headstand, Shoulder Stand, Plough Pose and Wheel Pose. So, let’s get into it.

Exercising During Your Period. NAQs

Can You/Can’t You?

You might have heard your yoga teacher tell the class, “Just take Child’s Pose if you’re on your period,” as many yogis believe that doing inversions while you’re menstruating reverses the natural flow. The reason being that menstruation is considered apana in yoga (apana means your body’s energy flow is downward moving), and is a natural way to detox the body.

So should you be avoiding them? From a physiological standpoint, doing inversions is totally fine. There is no evidence that doing inversions when on your period is something to avoid. Menstrual blood is released by uterine contractions, so going upside down won’t interrupt your flow or change its direction.

But you still might want to take it easy. As always –do whatever feels good for your body. Menstrual cycles behave differently from person-to-person and even month-to-month, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer about whether you should or shouldn’t practice inversions. Some people can feel light-headed, so inversions might not feel good. If in doubt, modify them, or skip them and enjoy extra time in Child’s Pose. What are a few days of the month not going upside down anyway?

Exercising During Your Period. NAQs

2. Can I Swim When I’ve Got My Period?

Yes. Yep. Affirmative. Go get in that water. Let’s break it down.

The Fear’s Real

We get it, the thought of swimming when you’ve got your period is scary. If you’re bleeding heavily, the fear of leakage is real. But you don’t have to stop swimming in pools, lakes or the ocean when you’re on your period. It’s reassuring to know that if your worst-case scenario of leaking in the water did happen, relax —the blood will be quickly diluted in the water or be neutralised by the chemical treatment used in swimming pools. Like nothing happened! While your period doesn’t stop when you swim, that feeling of being weightless and stretching your body with swimming strokes is really nice to calm periodcramps.

The Right Sanitary Wear

Tampons, menstrual cups, period-proof pants, sanitary pads —whatever you choose to use, you want to feel confident and know it’ll hold up when you swim. So, if tampons are your thing, it’s worth opting for a high absorbency one as all that pool water means it will be less able to absorb period blood. And you’ll probably want to change it once you’re finished swimming.

If you prefer menstrual cups, you may want to wash and reinsert it before you get in the pool. Cups work just as well as tampons and should stay in place while swimming. Good news for fans of period-proof underwear, there are also a few brands that have designed period-proof pants to wear underneath your swimwear. And finally, if you’re more of a pads person, you’ll need to rethink your sanitary wear when you swim, as pads aren’t designed to be worn in water.

Exercising During Your Period. NAQs

3. Can I Lose My Period From Over-Exercising?

You’ve probably heard of someone who lost their period from over-exercising. What’s the deal with that?

When Your Flow Goes

It’s actually a misconception that losing your period is from over-exercising alone. If you’re eating enough to support the intensity of the training you’re doing, then you won’t get this irregularity. Ultimately, it’s about the mismatch between energy used and energy consumed.

The frequency and flow of your period can offer clues to what’s going on inside your body. If you’re training super hard and have irregular menstrual cycles, or they stop altogether, it could be because your body is not getting the fuel it needs.

The way this works is that if you don’t eat enough or don’t eat close enough after training, your energy balance gets out of whack. This causes neurons to turn off and not send the signals to produce the hormones which makes your reproductive system work, leading to menstrual cycle dysfunction and amenorrhea —the absence of three or more consecutive periods. (Vague biology class flashback, anyone?)

Fuel Up

Eating regularly, never skipping a meal, and eating whole foods is the best way to stay fuelled up. Nuts, seeds, smoothies (packed full of protein and good fats), oat bars, bananas, and hummus and veggies are all great snacks. And adding whole grains, sweet potatoes, beans and lentils to dinners is good too. If you work out first thing, why not load up on porridge, and then have a power smoothie after working up a sweat? Whatever works for you, just remember that your body wants you to refuel after training.

Originally published: 11 June 2024