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 life.
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 the exercises that are helpful 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
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. And over time, your blood sugar levels increase. This can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
Slow weighted workouts can help regulate insulin levels. Lifting weights helps you build muscle, which keeps your metabolism moving even after your workout.
What’s more, slow weighted workouts can reduce the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol. Having high levels of cortisol for a prolonged period can increase insulin. So it’s important that PCOS Cysters 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 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 builds muscle mass in a holistic way.
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 healthy body 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.
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 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.
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.