Ah, that dreaded word! If you are cringing inside your boots before we deep dive into the world of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and exercise, deep breathe. We’re about to look at how you can save time, maximize results, and maybe, just maybe, discover a lifelong love affair. Why and what type of exercise is best for women with PCOS? Let’s find out.
I’m a big believer in do what you love in order to keep doing it in the longer term, but I’m often asked which exercise is better for women with PCOS. First, let’s look at why regular physical exertion is important for this common syndrome.
Benefits of Exercises For PCOS
- Encourages normal gene expression. In other words, it allows your genes to work as they were designed.
- Helps to reduce, even eliminate, the insulin resistance common in PCOS.
- Improves your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This means less energy is stored as fat.
- Creates our ‘happy hormones’ and helps to normalize stress levels.
- Can quash cravings. Yes, a 10-minute walk has been shown to kill the cravings for chocolate. Now that’s powerful stuff!
- Aids fat loss and maintenance of a healthy weight.
- Helps our bowels to move correctly and remove toxins.
and so much more!
Sounds like the perfect therapy! Yes, it’s one huge piece of the PCOS to perfect health jigsaw. What types of exercise might you consider to help your PCOS specifically?
Which Exercise Is Best For PCOS?
Technically, aerobic exercise is the type that uses oxygen, as opposed to anaerobic exercise which doesn’t. More commonly though, it is thought of as the one that raises your heart rate, uses your lungs and improves your fitness. Just like the class named after it. If you love aerobics and this is your choice of exertion, wonderful. Maintain a schedule for regular attendance or workouts at home. Some women will find this challenging due to current fitness or pain levels, for example. If this is the case, consider…
Lifting weights improves the function of your hormone, insulin. Also, weight training boosts your body’s ability to burn energy, improves the way you look and helps those feel-good hormones flow. I recommend you work with a suitably qualified professional, think an exercise physiologist or an experienced personal trainer, as technique is vitally important. Weight training can involve dumbbells and machines, resistance bands and belts, or simple bodyweight exercises. The latter is a great way for women with PCOS to begin.
Many women worry that because high testosterone is so common in this syndrome, weight training may make their muscles grow and make them look masculine. This is not the case as bodybuilding requires different training and food regimes. that, there is another option in…
Easy on the joints and great for the lungs, laps gift you the benefits of exercise with less strain. If body embarrassment stops you, have you tried…
This ancient practice is beneficial in many ways. Aside from the physical advantages of styles such as Iyengar, the calming peace for the mind and soul can have profound effects. Benefits of yoga include reducing stress, possibly decreasing inflammatory markers (this is very important in PCOS) and improving mood.
Still not sure about exercise?
It is imperative that you move regularly, so choose something you enjoy. Love dancing around your home, perfect. Prefer to walk with your music on? Great! Mix it up, incorporate more than one type of exercise, and enjoy. To make things even simpler, let’s take a look at some shortcuts that can lessen your work out time and increase your results.
Exercise For PCOS: How Can You Shortcut Your Success?
Functional Weight Training
Functional weight training incorporates the benefits of weights with the movement of multiple activities. Instead of laying relatively still on a bench, pressing a bar toward the ceiling, you might incorporate a lunge with a shoulder push as you walk forward. Functional movements allow you to include many muscle groups in a single activity in a way that is more natural. More bang for your buck, so to speak.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is a not-so-well-kept secret, and its benefits in PCOS are marked. HIIT is effective for improving 24-hour glycemic control, even though the amount of exercise in terms of time spent was considerably less. In a 2017 study, Parker found that 24-minutes of HIIT was as beneficial to blood sugar control as 38-minutes of lower intensity cycling. You have to be happy with that!
Spread Your Exercise Out
Short of time? If you can’t commit to the hourly session you think you should (I hate that word, should!), include exercise when and where you can. Got time to step off the train a station early and walk? It counts. Brush your teeth while held in a wall squat. It counts too. Where can you squeeze in more? Keep a diary. You might just find this is a great way to exercise more than you’d known you could.
But I Sweat!
Great! Many women with PCOS worry that they sweat too much. I have always preferred to see this as a sign of success. It means you’re working, and no-one expects a person exercising to look prim and proper. Whatever that is. That rush of endorphins, stress release and the hormonal shift will help you care less once you’re exercising. Get into the habit of moving, perspiration included, and out of the habit of worrying. Your body and mind will thank you.
It’s true: women with PCOS often have higher levels of inflammatory markers, which can cause pain. It’s false that this means you can’t or shouldn’t exercise.
See our body is made for movement. In fact, Dr. Roger Sperry, Nobel Prize Laureate, has stated “90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.”
And there are many choices, so if jogging makes your knees ache, try walking. Or swimming… Or gym… Or Yoga… Add incident activity, like walking up the stairs, a 30-second squat while combing your hair, or sitting on a Swiss ball instead of your office chair.
Even better, Giallauria found “exercise training improves… inflammatory pattern(s) in PCOS women.” This means that as you exercise, immediately and over time you reduce your levels of potentially painful (and dangerous) inflammation. As if playing a game of dominoes, exercise makes it easier to exercise in future. That’s a very cool design.
There are supplements that can reduce inflammation and pain, such as magnesium, nitric oxide, and antioxidants. You might also benefit from a holistic, natural therapy such as Chiropractic, acupuncture, acupressure or physiotherapy. If pain is a reason you have been avoiding exercise, it is important to have this addressed. I have spoken to many women about exercise for PCOS. Several of them have told me that they experience significant discomfort and this adversely impacts on the physical activity they undertake. I’ve also found that, when the right approach is tailored for exercise for PCOS and when it becomes a regular lifestyle inclusion, activity becomes enjoyable and a critical part of the recovery process. Why? You cannot be well if you don’t move.