LIVING

The Best Time To Work Out During Your Menstrual Cycle, According To New Study

09/23/2016 10:54 EDT | Updated 09/23/2016 10:54 EDT

A new Swedish study has shed some light on when is best to work out during the menstrual cycle, suggesting that training during the first two weeks could be most beneficial for muscles.

How the menstrual cycle affects sports training is largely unexplored, but came under the spotlight recently when during the Rio 2016 Olympics, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui admitted feeling tired during her performance due to starting her period the day previously.

With most sports research looking at men, despite the increasing number of women taking part in sports, Lisbeth Wikström-Frisén, a doctoral student at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation at the university and author of the dissertation, wanted to look at how women can optimize their training based upon the hormone cycle.

black woman exercising

The small-scale study recruited 59 women, who participated in a four-month leg resistance training program.

One group underwent high frequency leg resistance training (five times per week) for the first two weeks of each cycle, while another group underwent the same training program but in the last two weeks of the cycle.

Wikström-Frisén also carried out a comparison between the women taking birth control pills and those not taking birth control.

The results showed that training in the first two weeks had a larger effect on muscular strength, power and muscle mass than training in the latter two weeks, suggesting that women could achieve better results from their workout without necessarily increasing the number of gym sessions, with Wikström-Frisén commenting that, "Since menstruation is a central part in everyday life for women and their training, we need to become better at taking this into account when optimiziing training."

black woman exercising

Although the study showed no noticeable difference in those taking hormone-based birth control pills and those not on the pill, Wikström-Frisén also looked at the cortisol levels of a further 33 female participants for nine months, finding that although the results did depend on the season, women who took birth control pills generally had higher levels of the stress hormone.

"The varying levels of cortisol are of importance when optimizing training for women," commented Wikström-Frisén. "If we measure cortisol levels of women who are on the pill and find increased values, it could easily be interpreted as if they are overtrained, but that's not necessarily the case according to our research results."

Also on HuffPost

  • Plank
    Huffington Post Canada/ Sabrina Campolucci
    The plank engages your core but doesn't put pressure on the back like regular sit ups would. • Make sure that your elbows and shoulders are in line with each other as well as your neck in line with your spine and hips • Keep your belly button pulled toward spine the entire time • Make sure to not let your hips drop • Try holding this position for 30 seconds and slowly increase the time when you feel comfortable
  • Side Plank
    Huffington Post Canada/ Sabrina Campolucci
    The side plank engages your core as well. This move strengthens your abdomen and lower back but puts more emphasis on your obliques and hips than a regular plank. • Start on your side • Make sure that your elbows and shoulders are in line as well as your neck in line with your spine and hips • Push your hips up off of the ground • Keep your belly button pulled toward spine the entire time • Make sure to not let your hips drop • Try holding this position for 30 seconds and slowly increase time when you feel comfortable
  • Superman
    Huffington Post Canada/ Sabrina Campolucci
    The Superman is a great exercise for your whole posterior chain. We often neglect to work on our glutes and hamstrings so this is a great exercise for our rear. • Start by lying face down your mat • Extend both your arms and your legs • Simultaneously lift up both of your arms and legs as high as you can • Hold this position for one second • Repeat this move for 10 to 12 times
  • Glute Bridge
    Huffington Post Canada/ Sabrina Campolucci
    This is great for your posterior chain. It allows you to target your glutes and hamstrings. The stronger they are, the better your back will feel. • Start by lying on your mat • Make sure that your feet are a shoulder width apart • Push your hips up and squeeze your glutes • Hold this position for 30 seconds and slowly increase time when you feel comfortable
  • Wall Squat
    Huffington Post Canada/ Sabrina Campolucci
    This exercise will strengthen your legs. It targets the quadriceps and forces you to keep a great posture when you press your back and shoulders against the wall. • Find a stable wall • Place your back against the wall • Slowly step away from the wall and slide your back down until your knees are at 90 degrees • Hold this position for 30 seconds and slowly increase the time when you feel comfortable