Should You Exercise According To Your Menstrual Cycle?

If you tend to experience fluctuating levels of energy and hormonal waves during your menstrual cycle, you might want to try cycle syncing. As it turns out, cycle syncing is the practice of structuring your diet, lifestyle, and exercise routines around the four phases of your menstrual cycle (via Greatist). Coined by functional nutritionist Alisa Vitti in her book "WomanCode," cycle syncing is a way to help people who menstruate align their daily routines with their biological rhythms.

According to Vitti, the method of cycle syncing shows you how to eat and exercise in a way that will optimize each phase of your menstrual cycle and help balance your hormone levels. While there isn't much research on the effectiveness of cycle syncing, some studies suggest that progesterone and estrogen can influence your thoughts, emotions, sensory processing, and appetite. As a result, knowing when these hormones are supposed to peak and fall might help you enhance your nutrition and fitness routine.

How does cycle syncing work?

According to Healthline, the framework for cycle syncing is based on the four phases of the menstrual cycle: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, and the luteal phase. Being mindful of these phases can help track your hormone fluctuations over the span of four weeks, or 28 days. During the menstrual phase, your estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. During the follicular and ovulatory phases, however, your hormone levels are on the rise, reaching their peak during the luteal phase. As it turns out, the menstrual phase, which is when you're supposed to get your period, is actually considered the fourth phase. 

Nicole Negron, a functional nutritionist and women's health specialist, told Healthline that tracking these phases and understanding these hormonal shifts can help optimize your meals, workouts, and daily activities. "Once women have become comfortable tracking their cycle in calendar form, I then teach them to track what they're feeling each week of their cycle in real-time," Negron said.

How can cycle syncing improve your fitness?

After you've familiarized yourself with the phases of your menstrual cycle, you can set your own guidelines on how to exercise to best support your body during each phase, tailoring your workout routines to how you feel. "It's important to listen to your body during each phase of the cycle," Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, a registered dietitian and the author of "The Better Period Food Solution," told Forbes. Generally speaking, however, some exercises may be better suited for certain phases of your menstrual cycle than others.

Since exercise can help increase blood flow, any physical activity that gets your body moving can help relieve cramps during the menstrual phase. If you don't have the energy for an intense workout, you can do yoga or go for a walk. In the follicular phase, your energy levels tend to go up, which is why Beckerman recommends doing cardio. However, most people who menstruate feel their best during the ovulatory phase. To get the most out of your workouts during this phase, stick to more intense exercise routines, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and CrossFit. Meanwhile, it's best to opt for low-intensity workouts, like yoga and pilates, during the luteal phase when your hormone levels start to go back down.