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Five Ways to Reduce Menstrual Cramps through Exercise

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/8/2010

Relieve menstrual cramps with these top five menstrual exercises, which involve ab crunches, running and yoga poses.

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    Relieve Menstrual Cramps by Moving, Not Resting

    When our bodies experience pain, our first instinct is to lie down and rest. Not so with menstrual cramps. Remaining sedentary during premenstrual syndrome and your period can actually keep your muscles cramped and inflict more pain in your abdomen and upper legs. Instead, relieve menstrual cramps with some low-impact exercises.

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    Running reduces cramps
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    Aerobic Exercises

    Walking

    According to Gina Shaw of WebMD, women should try walking at a brisk pace, either around the house or on a sidewalk in your neighborhood. This activity encourages your body to release endorphins, which naturally helps your body feel better and combat cramps.

    If you feel like hitting the gym, try walking or jogging on an elliptical, treadmill, or other running machine. Take a break after every five or ten minutes so you don't wear out.

    Biking

    WebMD recommends briskly biking to activate the upper legs and lower abs. Not only does this fast-paced exercise relieve menstrual cramps, it's enjoyable enough to take your mind off the pain while you're at it. Pack a water bottle and chocolate-free snack in a knapsack if you plan to ride for longer than an hour.

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    Abdominal Exercises

    Ab Crunches

    Making yourself feel worse temporarily is not a popular method of pain relief. However, the more you work your abdominal muscles, the more you force your muscles to expand instead of remain contracted and cramped.

    You can do ab crunches on the floor or on a weight machine. If you don't have your own weight machine or access to a gym, lie on the floor with your arms by your side and your legs lying flat. Using your lower abdominals only, raise your legs, bend them at the knee, and tuck your chin and legs to your chest. Repeat these motions in three sets, ten times per set.

    If you do have access to a weight machine, sit on the seat and reach behind your head to grab two handles. Keep handles near your ears and extend your upper body to a ninety-degree angle, perpendicular with the floor. Adjust the weight as necessary so you're not straining your muscles.

    Cobra Pose

    Did you know that this popular yoga pose can stretch your abs and help relieve menstrual cramps? You can do this pose as often as necessary.

    To begin, lie face-down on the floor. Raise your upper body on bent elbows as if you were going to do a push-up. Instead, keep your hips planted on the floor, push your arms up as far as they can go, and lean your head back so that you're gazing at the ceiling. You should feel your abs stretching. Hold this pose for 15 to 20 seconds and lay back down on your stomach. Rest for a few seconds and repeat as necessary.

    Sit-Ups

    Sit-ups are one of the most common forms of exercise, but are one of the last things some women think of to relieve menstrual cramps.

    Anchor the tips of your feet beneath a recliner or other piece of furniture, unless you're skilled enough to keep feet planted on the floor. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Clasp hands across your chest or behind your head. Use your lower abs to raise your upper body up to your knees and back down on a slow, smooth motion.

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    Hydrate Your Body

    Exercise depletes your body's present resources. Make sure you hydrate your body. Remember, if you wait until you get thirsty, your body is already deficient on fluids. Stanford University recommends drinking cranberry juice, as this potassium-rich drink helps relieve menstrual cramps.

    Sources:

    Gina Shaw, WebMD: Exercise: SOS for Menstrual Cramps

    Stanford University: General Menstrual Problems