11 Gentle Exercises That Can Help Relieve Period Cramps

For when you're ready to get out of fetal position.

Originally Published: 
The best exercises to try for period cramp relief.
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When that time of the month rolls back around, you may find yourself burrito-d on the couch with a blanket and heating pad as a way to battle period cramps. And who could blame you? If you can’t imagine moving, please don’t. But if you feel up for a little bit of exercise, know that there are plenty of gentle, low-impact options to choose from — and some might even help ease the pain.

Of course, there’s no denying that period cramps can make it tough to move, says Sasha Mihovilovic, a master trainer at workout studio AKT. And yet, she says exercising promotes circulation, which in turn eases muscle soreness. According to Alayna Curry, an AFAA-certified fitness and founder of Workout With Mom, a little movement can also boost your mood and make it easier to sleep — two things that are a godsend when you’re feeling achy. If you’ve been lying awake PMS symptoms, a lazy yoga workout or a sleepy stroll might just do the trick.

Stretches, easy workouts, and flow-y exercises that target your lower abdomen will be key. And the gentler the better. “In general, it’s best to stick with low-to-medium impact exercises during your period,” Curry tells Bustle. “This isn’t the time to push yourself with an extreme HIIT class or a heavy weight strength training session.” Instead, slide off the couch and give these moves a try.


Glute Bridges

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Curry suggests this exercise to stretch out and strengthen your lower back muscles, which can cramp up during your period.

- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

- Slowly raise your booty into the air, pressing your hips to the sky.

- Hold at the top for a second.

- Slowly lower back down.

- Repeat for 4 rounds of 12 reps.


Long Walk


A long walk at an easy pace is another easy way to relieve period cramps and improve a bad mood, says Dr. Kristina Kehoe, PT, DPT, a board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health.

Strap on a pair of sneakers and aim to walk for 20 to 30 minutes, or more if you can. “This helps reduce bloating and pain by improving blood circulation, as well as the release of endorphins or ‘feel-good’ hormones,” Kehoe explains.


Downward Dog


Kehoe also recommends doing this well-known yoga move. “This exercise stretches the back body, which is often tight during a period,” she says. No need to put on leggings — your sweatpants are a-OK for this one.

- Start on all fours.

- Press your hips up to the sky.

- Lower your heels as much as you can.

- Relax your head and neck.

- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.


Supine Twist


This one will also feel good if you’re dealing with PMS symptoms (and you can do it in bed). “It provides a very gentle stretch to the abdomen, as well as the back,” Kehoe says. Lie there as long as necessary.

- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.

- Gently drop your knees to one side.

- Let your head turn to the opposite side.

- Hold for 3 to 5 counts.

- Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.




According to Soji James, a life expert and certified personal trainer at wellness performance company 1AND1, a quick aerobic exercise sesh can help relieve annoying cramps. “Research indicates that when you pump up your heart rate, your endorphins also go up, which improves your mood and generally helps you relieve pain,” he tells Bustle.

Try gliding on an elliptical at a steady pace until you feel like getting off, or try a few quick bursts for some interval training. Just remember not to overdo it if you’re feeling sluggish.


Fire Toes


Believe it or not, releasing the tension in your feet may help relieve cramps. “We hold a lot of hormones and stress in our feet,” Mihovilovic explains. “So taking a moment to release the tension in our feet can be beneficial.”

- Sit upright on your knees with your toes tucked under.

- Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds to stretch out the ligaments and fascia in your feet.

- Shake it out and repeat again 2 to 3 times.


Child’s Pose To Cobra

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Mihovilovic also recommends this combo to stretch your lower back, as well as the psoas and abdominal wall.

- Start by kneeling.

- Sit your hips back and reach your arms forward for child’s pose.

- Take 2 to 3 deep breaths.

- Place your palms flat on the floor.

- Scoop through to find yourself in a cobra stretch.

- Take 2 to 3 deep breaths.

- Move back into child’s pose, arms resting back at your sides.

- Spend 1 minute here taking deep breaths.


Pelvic Tilts


Certified personal trainer Jake Dickson suggests this move to increase blood flow to your lower back.

- Place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.

- Slowly lift your hips off the floor, focusing on each vertebra individually.

- Slowly raise and drop your hips for two minutes.



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Personal trainer Michele Riechman points to this simple yoga movement as a way to relieve tense ab and back muscles. The cat-cow also increases mobility in your spine, she says, and helps calm your nervous system — something that’s super important when you’re in agony.

- Start in a quadruped with your back in a neutral position.

- Drop your core towards the floor and look up as you inhale.

- Fill your torso with air.

- Tuck your chin to your chest and round your spine as you exhale.

- Let all the air come out.

- Continue to repeat 5 to 10 times syncing your breath to each movement.




If you’ve been ignoring the pool at your gym, now’s the time to stick in a menstrual cup and take a dip. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that can be particularly helpful for reducing cramping and bloating during your period, says Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, an ACE-certified personal trainer. “Additionally, the buoyancy of the water can help to take the pressure off your joints and muscles, making it easier to exercise.” Aaah...


Pilates 100


If you’re clicking around on YouTube for a gentle routine, type in Pilates and go with any 10-minute option. Pilates is another low-impact exercise that combines strength training with a nice stretch, Sabat tells Bustle. Want a specific move? Start with the classic one hundreds exercise.

- Lie on your back.

- Lift your legs and head off the ground.

- Bend your knees and reach for your toes.

- Engage your abs.

- Begin to pump your arms up and down.

- Inhale for five pumps and exhale for five pumps until you reach 100.

Studies referenced:

Armour, M. (2019.) Exercise for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004142.pub4.

Joyner, M. (2015). Regulation of Increased Blood Flow (Hyperemia) to Muscles During Exercise: A Hierarchy of Competing Physiological Needs. Physiol Rev.

Maged, A.M. (2018). Effect of swimming exercise on premenstrual syndrome. Arch Gynecol Obstet. doi: 10.1007/s00404-018-4664-1.

Vaghela, N. 2019. To compare the effects of aerobic exercise and yoga on Premenstrual syndrome. J Educ Health Promot. doi: 10.4103/jehp.jehp_50_19.

Vieira, AKS. (2021.) Effect of Foot Reflexology Protocol on Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms in Nursing Students: a Pre-Post Pilot Study. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. doi: 10.3822/ijtmb.v14i4.631.

Wu, WL. (2015.) The acute effects of yoga on cognitive measures for women with premenstrual syndrome. J Altern Complement Med. doi: 10.1089/acm.2015.0070.

Yang, NY. (2016.) Effects of a Yoga Program on Menstrual Cramps and Menstrual Distress in Undergraduate Students with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Single-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0058.


Sasha Mihovilovic, master trainer at workout studio AKT

Alayna Curry, AFAA-certified fitness, founder of Workout With Mom

Dr. Kristina Kehoe, PT, DPT, board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health

Soji James, life expert, certified personal trainer at wellness performance company 1AND1

Jake Dickson, certified personal trainer

Michele Riechman, personal trainer

Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, ACE-certified personal trainer

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