PCOS & EXERCISE
15 March 2021
Lucija Peric (she/her)
Have you ever experienced irregular periods? Do you find yourself gaining weight unexpectedly? Do you find that you sometimes grow hair in places you wouldn’t usually see or see surprising skin changes and are not on any hormone therapies that could account for this? Have you even been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, otherwise known as PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal condition that currently affects 12-18% of individuals with reproductive organs and can result in insulin resistance, excess weight, reduced fertility, irregular or absent periods, skin changes such as acne, excess hair growth and an increase in testosterone levels. (1)
Experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem can also happen when these bodily changes arise. The great thing is that research has shown that exercise can improve all the symptoms above (2)
How can exercise help me?
Exercise can help regulate blood sugar levels, improve metabolism and weight, improve cardiovascular fitness and strength, and can also improve fertility.
What type of exercise should I do?
There are so many types of different exercises that you can do. Aerobic exercise: otherwise known as cardio, such as brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming can increase your bodies sensitivity to insulin. Just 30 minutes a day can improve period regularity and mood.
Strength training can improve your bodies use of insulin, but also improves body composition and metabolism via building more muscle mass. More muscle mass means that your body can take up more glucose as fuel and burn more calories at rest.
Hight Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can improve muscle endurance and strength with the added benefits above, in a time efficient way.
Studies say that a 5% weight loss can improve PCOS symptoms by regulating hormones and improving blood sugar levels.
The first step involves thinking about what exercises you enjoy! Exercise should be a celebration of what your body can do, not an activity that you absolutely dislike and see as a punishment. So realistically, any activity you enjoy, whether it be walking, going to the gym, doing classes, dancing crazily in your room (I do this) or even increased steps whilst at work is a great place to start.
How often should I do this?
The trick is to start with just getting up and moving. If you are not usually active, breaking up sitting time can be your first step. For example: If you find that you are sitting for more than 2 hours at a time, try to get up every 1-2 hours and go for a quick walk, stretch, or do some “exercise snacks.” Exercise snacks involve doing quick bursts of exercise such as 5-10 push ups, squats, a 30 second plank or even some marching on the spot.
For a balanced exercise program including cardio and strength training, it is recommended to build up to:
- 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week: This can be 30 minutes in one go, or broken up into 3 x 10 minute blocks.
- At least 2 x strengthening sessions per week involving resistance training or body weight exercises encompassing large muscle groups such as push ups, squats, deadlifts, core exercises and pull ups and more.
Whether you are new to exercising or have been doing it for a while, and would like some guidance and support around choosing physical activities that will suit your lifestyle, feel free to reach out and the team at With Pride will be happy to have a chat where together we can eliminate barriers, develop strategies and find what steppingstones we can take to better manage your PCOS symptoms and experiences.
1. Exercise training improves autonomic function and inflammatory pattern in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
2. Woodward A, Klonizakis M, Broom D. Exercise and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020 Apr 27;1228:123-36.