First things first: exercise is really good for us (like really good). It’s one of the non-negotiables when it comes to physical and mental health.
The body benefits most from a mixture of different forms of training, so to give you plenty of options to choose from, here’s a rundown of our four favourite styles of hormone-friendly workouts.
1. RESTORATIVE MOVEMENT
Think slow, breath-focused, mindful forms of movement that aren’t all that taxing on the body - the kind that you don’t need to shower after, if you will.
- Body Balance
- Yin yoga
- Tai chi
- Low-intensity Pilates
- Stretching and foam rolling.
These types of exercises are great for mobility and flexibility and support our detoxification pathways, lymphatic system and joints. Some studies also link forms of restorative movement to a reduction in cortisol levels; something we can totally get behind for hormone balance.
This kind of exercise is perfect for the few days before, and the first few days of your period, where your energy levels and moods can often take a bit of a dive.
2. LOW-INTENSITY CARDIO
While technically any exercise that increases your heart rate is considered ‘cardio,’ the form that’s kinder to your hormones is what’s often referred to as LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State).
This includes any kind of cardio exercise performed at a low enough intensity for you to easily hold a conversation, such as:
- Lower intensity fitness classes, etc.
These kinds of exercise improve blood flow and circulation, and help to increase fitness without being overly stressful on the body.
Due to the low intensity, LISS can be done at any time of your cycle that you feel up to it, and particularly great for calming the mind and boosting your mood.
Hot tip: for a wholesome catch up with a friend, skip the cafe and go for a leisurely stroll. It's socialising and exercising all in one AND you’ll save sweet $$.
3. RESISTANCE TRAINING
Resistance training is essentially any form of training that uses resistance to build and maintain muscle mass and strength—which only gets more important the older we get.
This form of training supports testosterone production in both sexes, a hormone that’s important for strength, energy, libido, bone health and cognitive function.
Some resistance training ideas include:
- BodyPump or weights-based workout classes;
- Following a strength-building gym program;
- Reformer Pilates classes;
- If you don’t love the gym, try resistance training at home with moves like lunges, squats, push-ups etc.
Testosterone in women naturally peaks around the time of ovulation (roughly day 14 of a 28 day cycle). If lifting heavy is your thing, you are more likely to achieve a personal best at this time than any other time of the month - how great is that?
Hot tip: to make the most of your muscle building efforts, make sure to get in around 30g of quality protein within around half an hour of your workout.
4. HIIT (IN MODERATION)
In case you’re not down with the gym-lingo, HIIT stands for ‘High-Intensity Interval Training’, which as the name suggests, is a pretty intense form of training.
The truth is HIIT can put a lot of stress on your body—so if you're going to do it, you need to be smart about how you go about it, and ensure you are well slept, well fuelled and aren’t overly stressed in other areas of your life.
Forms of HIIT training can include:
- GRIT, Sprint and other intense gym classes
- F45 cardio classes
- Any other form of interval-based workouts with movements designed to max your heart rate (e.g. box jumps, burpees etc).
The main advantage of HIIT training over other forms of exercise is that it's quick and efficient, and keeps your metabolism elevated for hours after you finish your workout.
Being a total sweat-fest, this kind of intense exercise also aids in detoxification, which can help to keep oestrogen levels in check.
HIIT will always feel better during your follicular phase, (roughly days 3-12 of a 28 day cycle). During this time our bodies are better at using carbohydrates for energy and hitting higher peaks of intensity.
Hot tip: if you’re keen to get your sweat on, but your energy levels or hormone picture aren’t up to intense exercise, a heated yoga class or infrared sauna session are other great options.
ASK YOURSELF - HOW DOES MY BODY FEEL LIKE MOVING TODAY?
When it comes to exercise, more is not always more. Exercising for the right reasons means tuning in to your body, and rolling with whatever is going to make both your body and mind feel really good.
Female hormones, energy levels, and desires fluctuate in a monthly cycle, rather than a daily one. One week you might be smashing a HIIT class and feeling fantastic, the next week you can’t think of anything worse - trust us, it’s all part of the magic that is being a woman.