When you follow an active lifestyle, you can reach some pretty big goals over time. Small steps can add up to huge strides — in your physical and mental health, stress levels, sleep, productivity, and even relationships. Exercising is one of the best things you can do to manage your PCOS symptoms, as it helps regulate your hormone levels. With or without polycystic ovary syndrome, staying active has countless benefits for your overall health and quality of life.Start PCOS Treatment
A healthy lifestyle is the most effective approach to managing PCOS and reducing the severity of symptoms. Although most of us focus on eating right, and choosing healthier alternatives — being physically active is as important in managing polycystic ovary syndrome. It has been shown to improve symptoms and reduce the risk of developing related long-term health conditions.
Benefits of regular exercise on PCOS:
Any type of regular exercise is effective in improving PCOS symptoms. Whether it is moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise or resistance (using weights) exercise, your symptoms will improve. A variety of exercises is good to maintain interest and motivation and as long as you are moving and enjoying it, the type of exercise is not so important. However, it is recommended to have a combination of exercises that incorporates both cardio and strength training in your routine to make it more holistic.
Stretching is a great way to warm up your muscles before a workout. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, adding stretching to your daily routine can improve blood circulation and flexibility. Desk exercises such as spinal twists, leg extensions, calf raises, and shoulder stretches can help release any stiffness.
Yoga is a practice that can help build a stronger connection between your mind and body. The result is increased flexibility, mobility, and mindfulness. While yoga may not burn as many calories as other aerobic exercises like jogging or walking, it can increase endurance and strength, which helps with weight loss. Yoga helps improve blood circulation, ease pain, and helps reduce menstrual cramps too.
Walking is not only the most commonly reported exercise among adults worldwide, but it is also considered a beneficial activity for various social, physical, and psychological reasons. Walking is a low-intensity activity that can be easily incorporated into a daily routine. Regular walking improves heart and bone health, aids in weight loss, and also helps improve your mood. If you are a beginner, 30 minutes of walking and staying active throughout the day can help improve PCOS symptoms. As you progress in your fitness journey, you can increase the duration and intensity of walking.
Pool workouts such as swimming are a great addition to your routine if you are looking to do something else apart from home workouts or going to the gym. Swimming is a low-impact workout that not only works the entire body but is also easy on your joints. You can challenge yourself by setting swimming distance or speed goals.
Biking is a great low impact workout that can be added to your routine to keep it fun. You can either choose to bike outdoors or perform stationary biking. Biking does not put any weight on the knees or your feet, so it is a great alternative to days you want to keep it light. Depending on your activity levels, you can choose the intensity and inclination to make it more challenging.
Strength training is a form of exercise where you make your muscles work against an external resistance, which makes any movement harder to perform. For example, while lifting dumbbells your body has to work harder to lift the weight, or while doing a push-up you're going against gravity to lift your body. This helps build muscle strength and endurance, which in turn helps reduce the symptoms of PCOS. You can perform strength training using your body weight, external weights, or resistance bands.
Research has shown that strength training exercises improve polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms by
Strength training exercises should be done 2-3 times a week along with cardio exercises.
According to studies, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. When you break down 150 minutes through the week, it is surprising to see that 30 minutes of activity, five days a week is all it takes to get started. Jogging, and running are great cardio activities that not only help burn calories but also improve heart and bone health. HIIT or high-intensity interval training involves short bursts of intense exercise activity alternated by a brief period of recovery. Although HIIT is great to increase your basal metabolic rate, doing vigorous exercises like HIIT can act as a chronic stressor and increase your cortisol levels (briefly) which can worsen your PCOS symptoms in some women. So if you feel exhausted or notice that your symptoms have worsened, switch to slow, weighted workouts instead.
Fitness goals are a way to keep track of where you are in your fitness journey and to keep yourself motivated. You don’t have to set big goals to see results. Small, attainable goals are realistic and a good place to start. Sometimes, having a friend or a partner work out with you can also help you stay accountable.
I will lose 10 kgs in one month, I will exercise for 2 hours daily — these are some examples of setting unrealistic goals for yourself. Go big or go home mindset does not apply to goals. Set small, tangible goals that are attainable. For example, instead of saying you’ll work out for 2 hours daily, make it a habit to stay active throughout the day and perform any physical activity you enjoy for 30 mins to start with. You can always build on a goal or a habit as you progress but when starting, be aware of what you can achieve in a given time and work toward making small steps because every bit of progress matters.
By definition, ‘habit is an acquired behaviour that you do regularly or repeatedly. Although you have a task set in mind, it won’t become a habit unless you do it regularly. For example, if you know you have to work out 30 minutes every day, fit it into your schedule. You could either do it first thing in the morning or the evening after work. Whatever your preference is, having that activity as a part of your normal schedule will help you naturally ease into a form of habit
Habits take time to develop and there might be days you were not able to do the things that you were supposed to — and that is okay. One way to prevent setbacks is to be aware of them. Did you skip a workout because of your busy schedule? You can fix this by starting your day an hour earlier and going to the gym in the morning. Regardless, if you do face setbacks, don’t feel discouraged. Just get back to the routine as soon as you can.
Gyms are not the only place you can see results, home workouts are equally effective too! For PCOS specifically, although any type of workout is beneficial, here are some things that can set you up for success while working out at home:
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and shoes appropriate for the weather and the activity.
Find a convenient time and place to do activities. Try to make it a habit, but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work activity into your day another way.
You can alternate between cardio, strength training, yoga, and mobility workouts for a holistic routine. The whole point of making exercising sustainable is to keep it fun and engaging. Following a routine that has a variety of exercises can be fun and challenging.
You don’t have to have a set of weights or resistance bands to get started with strength training. There are plenty of bodyweight exercises you can perform such as squats, planks, and push-ups. You can use the support of the floor, wall, chair, or desk for movements that need resistance.
Weight loss with PCOS can seem difficult, but it is not impossible. A holistic lifestyle change that takes care of your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress can help treat the underlying hormonal imbalance and help you lose weight. Also, remember that generic weight loss plans never work, you need a personalised, structured plan that addresses your symptoms and concerns.
Including sources of protein, complex carbs along with healthy fats can help you maintain your sugar levels. When you eat a balanced diet, you not only maintain stable blood sugar levels but also prevent cravings. Every food group is essential when it comes to having a balanced diet — restricting a food group or following fad diets often doesn’t work for polycystic ovary syndrome. Your diet needs to be sustainable, and easy to follow and you can make healthier choices by choosing carbs that have more dietary fibres and nutrients, such as whole wheat options.
There is no specific type of exercise that is recommended for PCOS — so depending on what you enjoy doing and successfully sustaining that activity, any type of physical activity is beneficial. Some overweight women with this condition may find it difficult to perform moderate to high-intensity workouts, so it’s important to start slow and as your fitness level increases, you can progress gradually. Try to focus on the exercises that you like to do. It could be a solo or group routine, according to your preference and idea of enjoyment.
Extreme workouts or fad diets are unsustainable and can put you at a health risk that might be harmful later on. Diets that cut down too many calories or starve your body are not healthy for your body and you may experience nutritional deficiencies. It is also possible and mostly observed that women with PCOS who follow these diets can gain back all the weight they had lost. So, a diet that gives you all the nutrients in moderation according to your body type is the best for you to lose weight.
Also, exercising at an intensity that your body is not used to or comfortable with can have bad effects. It can lead to a physical injury or cause a halt in the weight loss journey because your body is not responsive to the exercises that you are doing.
It can be difficult to lose weight with PCOS, but it is certainly not impossible. Women with PCOS may feel demotivated when they see that their peers can lose weight easier than they can, but the slow progress that you make is also important. It might make you feel discouraged at times, but a healthy lifestyle has advantages that are noticeable in the long run. Even when you are not losing a lot of weight, you are putting the long-term complications of PCOS at bay and improving symptoms such as irregular periods, acne, or the ability to conceive.
Boosting your metabolism alone won’t help you lose weight, but it can aid in weight loss. One of the ways to boost your metabolism is by eating a balanced diet. Having more sources of complex carbs, proteins, and healthy fats, and limiting processed or packaged foods can help improve your metabolism. Exercise, especially strength training, elevates your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories you burn at rest. Strength training helps increase lean muscle mass, and more muscle means more calories are burned at rest.
Yes, a structured workout routine is an important part of your PCOS treatment. What works for one person, most certainly won't work for someone else because of our different body composition, hormonal makeup, and lifestyle.
Your workout should be personalised to your symptoms and concerns — so following generic exercise plans may not show results. Also, you don't have to spend 2 hours in the gym every day to see results. Making small changes to your exercise routine and progressing slowly can help your body adjust to the increasing demands and prevent the risk of injury and burnout. Your doctor or a trainer can help provide this structure that best suits your lifestyle. Moreover, with PCOS, you need to consistently track your progress and make changes to your diet and exercise plan to avoid plateauing.
If you are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and have just started on your fitness journey, it can seem overwhelming, especially when you don’t know where to begin. Performing intense exercises or killing yourself in the gym will not help you in getting the desired results. Speak to a PCOS professional who can assess your hormonal profile and accordingly personalise the treatment plan that can help you make the required lifestyle changes.
Our online screening tool is a great place to start if you are not sure whether your unexplained symptoms could mean polycystic ovary syndrome. Based on your symptoms, medical history, and other lifestyle factors, the tool assigns you a score that can put you at a low or high risk of PCOS.
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