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If your mind has just jumped to those super cool (not!), hyper-color, lycra clad aerobics classes of the eighties, you’ll be relieved to know I’m not suggesting you head down to your local vintage store and hunt down some bright pink skin tights. You’ve got to check this out:
And if you’re too young, I’m glad you missed the torture!
So just what do I mean when I say aerobic exercise for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? Let’s take a look.
Technically, aerobic exercise is that which requires oxygen, as opposed to anaerobic exercise which does not. For our purposes here, we’ll talk about the common reference. Aerobic exercise is one which raises your heart rate, gives your lungs a good workout and improves your fitness. You know, the type that can make you sweat!
Everyone needs regular aerobic exercise, but let’s touch on the benefits for women with PCOS specifically.
Lipolysis, or the breakdown of fat, is markedly reduced in women with PCOS. This may help to answer why dieting can fail dismally for some while others whoop and holler about their success on the scales. Yet we can boost the hormones responsible for lipolysis by aerobic training. Might be time to regularly hit that treadmill at a moderate intensity?
In PCOS, women commonly have low-grade inflammation. Inflammation is linked to health issues like heart disease, insulin resistance, and cancer. With an already present risk to these illnesses, anything we can do to naturally reduce our risk is important. Now, time for some good news! Exercise training improves inflammation in PCOS.
Your health professional can assess this with tests such as CRP, homocysteine, and WBC. While it’s not important you know what these are, it is important that you are tested.
Insulin resistance (IR) is strongly associated with PCOS, and can negatively affect weight, fertility, thyroid function, acne, excessive hair growth and more. No doubt my patients tire of me talking about this, but it is just that important. Often times, women are incorrectly told this is all to do with weight. While weight is a factor, slim women with PCOS have higher rates of insulin resistance too.
That leads us back to aerobic exercise. The magic of movement helps reduce insulin resistance as well!
You can learn about PCOS and inflammation and insulin resistance in more detail in this article, PCOS Diagnosis: An Expert Advises How To Test For PCOS. It’s worth taking the time to read it.
Women with PCOS are more at risk of heart disease, as are those with poor cardiovascular function. How can we tackle this? Aerobic exercise is key.
With so many benefits to aerobic exercise, let’s take a look at some wonderful options…
Everyone has an opinion on this, maybe you’ve noticed? So, what type of aerobic exercise really is best for women with PCOS? One (or more) that makes you move, raises your heart rate, and works your lungs.
It is pretty simple.
I regularly advise women to do what they love as it’s easier to stick at longer term. This also leads to better results and a healthier life.
Let’s take a look at some interesting aerobic exercises for PCOS.
Ah, and you thought I was about to send you down the gym! Now if a weights workout is your thing, go for it. It’s an important part of an exercise program (and great for PCOS!). However, as we’re looking at aerobic exercise here, I want to expand your horizons.
Is there a style of dance that gets your heart pumping and body sweating? Great! This is what I mean.
Remember home is where the dance heart is too. Put on some upbeat tunes and wiggle your jiggle to the beat.
Looking for an exercise that can be performed in the comfort and anonymity of your own home, with no expensive equipment or ongoing costs? This might be just the ticket. One of my friends jumped herself two dress sizes down, into better health… and on to the jump rope state team!
There’s a reason why malicious personal trainers love boxing so much; it works! Try a one-minute session at home by consistently punching the air in front of you. How do you feel? Love the buzz? This might be for you.
Plus, stress is a frequent issue for women with PCOS, and research shows anger suppression is too. That helps boxing pack a combination punch of benefits.
Whether you prefer to hit the roads or a spin class, cycling has massive benefits in PCOS. Lower in impact and body strain than many other exercise choices, it can reduce insulin resistance, improve heart health and be down right fun.
Suffer from pain? You’re not alone. The higher levels of inflammation in PCOS may cause your back to ache or your limbs to suffer. Don’t let pain slow you down. See, we know that exercise boosts your mood and reduces inflammation, which both create a positive, upward cycle. If you are not able to pound the pavement or attend a formal class, you’ll be happy to know there are other options. Swimming is ideal. The water supports your weight and reduces pressure and pain, and your heart will thank you. Have access to a heated pool? Your muscles will love the warmth!
Walking, in my opinion, is underrated as an aerobic exercise. And it’s a wonderful way to begin. I have often advised patients to walk around the block. That way, if they feel too tired to continue, home is always just around the corner. If they feel well, there’s always another block to complete. And once you’re finished, a nice cup of tea or glass of water is close at hand.
Before beginning an aerobic exercise program, it is important to talk to your health professional and ensure it is safe to start. PCOS can come with a raft of complicated challenges. Choosing the right exercise and number of sessions per week will increase your likelihood of continuing and reaching the health success you deserve. Ok, that said…
Not been active for a while?
Start with two or three sessions each week and work your way up. Walking, as I mention above, is a perfect place to start. Increase your distance and time as you build up your fitness. If five minutes is where you need to begin, GREAT! As you progress, try two sessions per day.
Aim for five sessions per week, each for at least 30-minutes. Mix it up with some formal exercise, like a sport or cycling, and incidental exercise, like dancing as you clean.
I know PCOS can zap your energy, which is why I want to address that here. The strange thing is, you need to use energy to make energy. Once you schedule a time to move and stick to it, you’ll begin to feel better. Find an exercise buddy, make a not-to-be-missed appointment in your diary, eat a small, just-ripe banana 30-minutes before you begin.
There are supplements that can help. Those that boost nitric oxide increase blood flow and nutrient delivery around your body, ready for use. And magnesium can help to reduce pain and cramping, and increase energy.
If you’re still feeling flat, you may have other health challenges that need to be addressed, like depression or a sluggish thyroid. If this is the case, a visit to your health professional is the appropriate next move.
With benefits like reducing inflammation and insulin resistance, increasing your fat loss success, boosting your cardiovascular fitness and minimizing your risk of deadly diseases, now is the time to become active and jump on the aerobic PCOS path. Get out there and moving, and enjoy!