Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition affecting women of childbearing age. An imbalance of reproductive hormones causes a host of symptoms, including irregular ovulation, weight gain, infertility, acne, hair loss, excess body hair, and an irregular menstrual cycle.
Although reproductive health is the most common concern for women with PCOS, the condition can impact various areas of their lives.
If you’re a PCOS Cyster, this probably comes as no surprise to you. The good news is that you can manage your symptoms with lifestyle adjustments: a key one being exercise.
Regular physical activity can combat several PCOS-related issues, such as weight gain, glucose metabolism, and fatigue. Exercising can also aid quality sleep, reduce stress levels, and lower androgen levels in the body, which can help to regularize periods, improve your fertility, and ease symptoms like acne, hair loss, and unusual facial hair growth.
Let’s take a look at 5 healthy types of exercises for PCOS Cysters and how you can integrate them into your lifestyle.
Please note this blog post is not a substitute for official medical advice. If you are concerned about your PCOS symptoms, suspect you have an underlying health condition, or wish to make dietary/lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor first.
The 5 Best Exercises for PCOS
When it comes to getting those muscles moving, it’s all about finding that sweet spot. Moderate intensities are your new BFFs. By incorporating exercises like resistance bands into your routine, you’ll not only strengthen those muscles but you’d also be creating an oxygen debt that gives you a real workout. And here’s a cool perk: regular exercise improves insulin resistance, which is often a pesky issue for women with PCOS.
Now, who’s up for a little fitness fun? Let’s talk about some of the most helpful exercises for PCOS:
Slow Weighted Workouts
A tell-tale sign of PCOS is insulin resistance. This is when cells in the muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To compensate, the pancreas makes more insulin. Then over time, your blood sugar levels increase. This can also lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
Slow-weighted workouts can help regulate insulin levels. Lifting weights also helps you build muscle, which keeps your metabolism moving even after your workout.
What’s more, slow-weight workouts can reduce the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol. Having high levels of cortisol for a prolonged period can increase insulin. So PCOS Cysters must manage their stress levels through a combination of sleep, nutrition, and physical activity.
Intense strength training or resistance training isn’t necessary; just 30-45 minutes of slow weighted workouts, 3-5 times a week can be a game-changer in keeping stress at bay!
There’s evidence to suggest that mind-body exercises like yoga can improve anxiety, hormones, menstrual cycles, and metabolic parameters in women with PCOS – more so than some intense exercises like HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).
As mentioned above, stress is known to exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Yoga is widely known for its relaxation benefits, making it an ideal mind-body workout for PCOS Cysters.
As well as its stress-busting powers, yoga is perfect for muscle strength and stretching, which aids weight loss and holistically builds muscle mass.
Check out these five yoga poses for beginners:
- Mountain pose
- Forward fold
- Plank pose
- Downward-facing dog
- Child’s pose
Try an online exercise class or a beginner’s class at a gym near you and see how you feel!
Much like yoga, pilates is a great way to relieve stress. It’s also a very light form of resistance training, which helps you burn calories, maintain a healthy weight, and build lean, strong muscles.
Women with PCOS are prone to low moods and fatigue. Doing both yoga and pilates regularly can regulate hormone and energy levels due to the relaxation benefits that both activities have on the body. They are uniquely rejuvenating exercises as they balance energy levels, promoting both energy and rest.
If you’re new to yoga and pilates, check out some beginners’ classes on YouTube to limber up!
Moderate exercises like jogging, brisk walking, swimming, and cycling are all activities that help manage PCOS symptoms. These exercises can reduce insulin resistance and the associated risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Doing just 30 minutes of light cardio a day can aid weight management, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost energy levels, and improve the frequency of ovulation and menstrual cycles.
But, before you engage in any kind of workout, make sure you:
- Are well rested (i.e. have gotten enough sleep)
- Are hydrated
- Have eaten
- Have the right clothes and footwear
- Do a quick warm-up
If you’re not a regular exerciser, the prospect of launching into an intense type of exercise routine may be overwhelming. It’s important to note that exercise needn’t be strenuous and draining to be effective; it should be an activity that you can seamlessly weave into your daily routine.
Walking is arguably the most effective form of exercise out there. Whether it’s around the block or on a treadmill, just 30 minutes of walking per day can cut down the risk of chronic diseases and improve your cardiovascular health.
What Is The Worst Exercise For PCOS?
If you have PCOS, exercise is crucial for symptom management and overall health. But, certain exercises can make your symptoms worse. High-heat yoga sessions like “Bikram Yoga” or “Hot Yoga” can cause dehydration and worsen skin irritations. The “No-Pain, No-Gain” mentality can lead to joint pain and inflammation, which aggravate PCOS symptoms like weight gain and insulin resistance. So heavy cardio exercises like HIIT workouts or CrossFit won’t do you any good. Instead, opt for low-impact exercises like swimming or walking that are gentler on the body. Find exercises that work for you and your unique needs by experimenting with different types of workouts.
Although PCOS can’t be cured, you can live a symptom-free life through a combination of weight management, quality nutrition, and regular exercise. Exercising daily for 30-45 minutes is one of the best ways to stay healthy and manage the side effects of PCOS. For more tips on PCOS diet dos and don’ts, check out our podcast, A Cyster, and Mister, and our handy blog posts over on PCOS and Chill.