If you’ve recently been diagnosed with PCOS, you’ve probably heard a lot about the lifestyle changes you need to make. Of all the things that need to be tweaked, exercise is a key component. In fact, regular exercise has been found to have incredible benefits that go far beyond just weight loss for women with PCOS. So, let’s talk about why exercise is important.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder affecting young women. It is detected either at puberty or during early reproductive age. It is often characterised by weight gain and irregular periods, but there are some more symptoms of PCOS, namely:
The presence of at least two of these symptoms is considered confirmatory of the diagnosis of PCOS. The hormonal imbalances that lead to these symptoms are because of elevated levels of the male hormone androgen. There might be a simultaneous increase in the insulin hormone levels or it may develop later, leading to diabetes. In fact, obesity and diabetes are long term complications of PCOS.
Medications help restore the hormonal balance, but lifestyle modification is the most effective and sustainable way to manage PCOS symptoms in the long run. Together, medications and lifestyle modifications can give you the best results. And, exercise is one such change that comes highly recommended in the treatment of PCOS. Why? Read on to find out:
Exercise increases the metabolism of sugar in your body, lowers cholesterol levels and thus reduces the risk of developing diabetes or atherosclerosis (blockage of major blood vessels leading to high blood pressure and heart attack)
Studies have found that women with PCOS who exercised regularly had regular periods, had a lower risk of anovulation (a condition where there is a lack of ovulation), lower levels of androgens (male hormones) leading to a decrease in the secondary symptoms of PCOS such as hair loss, acne and excess body hair.
When you exercise it helps with the absorption of the body’s fat reserves, builds muscle mass and helps you lose weight.
Sleep disturbance is also a very common symptom of PCOS. And, that’s how regular exercise can help. Regular exercise helps improve sleep quality, the amount you sleep and reduces the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (a condition in which breathing is obstructed when you sleep and may cause snoring.)
Exercise causes the release of endorphins, a.k.a the ‘happy hormones’. This hormone helps improve your mood, reduces the level of stress, depression, fatigue and gives you an overall feeling of wellbeing.
So, how much exercise can get you all those benefits? Here’s a list to help you keep track:
|Aerobic/ cardio exercises||Strengthening exercises|
|Frequency||4-5 days a week||2-3 days a week|
|Intensity||Moderate to high intensity (interval training), between 60-70% of maximum heart rate (HR). That should be increased by 10% of your HR maximum or heart rate maximum every two weeks||60-70% of 1 RM (repetition maximum) comprising of 3 sets of 8-10 exercises, that targets major muscle groups, such as those of your glutes, arms, back and legs. You should then increase the number of repetitions or sets based on the rate of perceived exertion|
|Time||30-60 mins||30-45 mins|
|Type||Running, cycling or treadmill training||Squats, bicep and tricep curls, leg curls, extensions, chest press|
HR max is your maximum heart rate and is calculated based on a your age as 220 minus your age
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Mario FM, Graff SK, Spritzer PM. Habitual physical activity is associated with improved anthropometric and androgenic profile in PCOS: a cross-sectional study. J Endocrinol Invest. 2017;40(4):377–84.
dos Santos IK, Ashe MC, Cobucci RN, Soares GM, de Oliveira Maranhão TM, Dantas PMS. The effect of exercise as an intervention for women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020;99(16):e19644.
Khademi A, Alleyassin A, Aghahosseini M, Tabatabaeefar L, Amini M. The effect of exercise in PCOS women who exercise regularly. Asian J Sports Med. 2010;1(1):35–40.
Shetty D, Chandrasekaran B, Singh A, Oliverraj J. Exercise in polycystic ovarian syndrome: An evidence-based review. Saudi J Sport Med. 2017;17(3):123.
Shele G, Genkil J, Speelman D. A systematic review of the effects of exercise on hormones in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2020;5(2):14–33.
Barber TM, Hanson P, Weickert MO, Franks S. Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Implications for Pathogenesis and Novel Management Strategies. Clin Med Insights Reprod Heal. 2019;13:117955811987404.
Naderpoor N, Shorakae S, Joham A, Boyle J, De Courten B, Teede HJ. Obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome. Minerva Endocrinol. 2015;40(1):37–51.
Barber TM, McCarthy MI, Wass JAH, Franks S. Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2006;65(2):137–45.
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