Cramps happen. When they do, the natural inclination is to curl up on the sofa and seek all things comfy. And yet, mustering up the energy to get out and get active just might be the secret to more cramp-free periods.
Exercise helps the body release beta-endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that not only boost mood, but are also associated with pain relief and muscle relaxation. In other words, they're the body's natural painkillers.
Exercise also promotes better blood circulation throughout the body including the pelvic area. And that improved circulation can also help ease monthly cramps.
So if your cramps are mild to moderate and you've talked it over with your healthcare provider, go on and get physical with these aerobic and stretching ideas.
Aerobic Exercise for Cramp Relief
Aerobic exercise is exercise that gets the heart rate up, and it just might be your best bet to relieve menstrual pain and discomfort.
- Walking. A brisk walk around the block is easy access exercise. Plus, there's that added perk of being in the outdoors, which can give you a new view to help take your mind off menstrual aches. Or if you prefer, pop in your earbuds and get on the treadmill. Just remember to listen to your body and take a break when you need one.
- Biking. Why not cycle for a better cycle? (heh!) Biking is another great cardio workout that gets your blood circulating, particularly in the upper legs, lower abdomen and lower back. Like walking, you'll also take in some fresh air and vitamin D from sunshine.
- Dancing. Belly dancing strengthens abdomen and back muscles and has received some buzz for menstrual cramp relief. However, any type of dancing can be a cardio cramp reliever. There are plenty of dance-based exercise classes, from Zumba and Jazzercise, to salsa and hip-hop. Or just pick your favorite style of music, turn up the volume and bust a move.
Stretch for Cramp Relief
Yoga stretches are also effective for strengthening abdominal muscles and stimulating pelvic blood flow. Read on for some of our favorites:
- Cat cow pose. While on your hands and knees, pull your belly up toward your spine, round your back toward the ceiling, tuck your pelvis under and point your head to the floor. This is a cat pose (think of a frightened cat and how it arches its back). Now reverse the pose by pulling your back downward into a gentle curve while turning your head upward to the ceiling. This is a cow pose. Now continue to alternate between the two, exhaling during the cat pose and inhaling on the cow pose.
- Cobra pose. Lie on your belly with your legs stretched out behind you, hip distance apart with the tops of your feet pressed to the floor. Place your hands on the floor under your shoulders with your elbows tucked into the sides of your body. Inhale as you straighten your arms, lift your chest off the floor and you're your head back, looking upward toward the ceiling. Lift only as far as is comfortable for you. Exhale as you release the pose, returning your chest to the floor. Repeat.
Just Do It
It may take a bit of mental motivation to push past the discomfort, but if you find cramp relief in exercise it will be well worth the effort. (Not to mention the other healthy benefits like losing those extra lbs!)
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