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Polycystic ovary syndrome affects 5-10% of 18-44-year-old females. An exercise physiologist is commonly sought for advice regarding exercise in relation to Polycystic ovary syndrome and related health conditions. I want to discuss exercise and its benefits related to a PCOS diagnosis.

Overweight or obesity in the PCOS population has been reported as high as 90%, with positive changes to menstrual cycles after a 5% body mass weight loss. Other conditions associated with PCOS include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and high cholesterol (dyslipidemia). The good news is that all these conditions can be improved or managed with behavior change. If you have been diagnosed, it might be time for you to consider some easy changes in your weekly routine. Always remember that you are you, and your diagnosis and treatment may somewhat differ from the person sitting next to you.

PCOS Considerations

Diabetes is often linked with a PCOS diagnosis as insulin assists in the regulation of ovarian function. However, too much insulin leads to the production of hormones called androgens, which reduce regular periods. Exercise reduces insulin in the body. Physical activity can assist in the management or improvement of blood glucose levels when completed correctly. Positive changes in body composition and dyslipidemia levels are also imperative. 

Current best practice for dyslipidemia and diabetes management when talking about exercise include 5 x 30 minutes, including two strength sessions each week. Adhering to this has shown positive outcomes at restoring a women’s natural menstrual cycle after 3-months.

Up to 39% of women with PCOS have anxiety and 25% for depression in the PCOS population. If you are feeling blue, you are not alone. Exercise is one modality to improve self-esteem and body image. Seeking out a psychologist or mental health support and ensuring you are confronting your worries head-on is super important. There are also many avenues like beyond blue (1300 22 4636). 

Starting with exercise:

If you are someone who does not necessarily ‘enjoy’ exercise or running on a treadmill. But, you have been diagnosed with PCOS, and exercise is the next step, it is time to think outside of the box. Some examples may include dance classes, swimming laps at the pool, hiking, walking along the beach, Pilates, tennis, and surfing are all forms of exercise and can classify as weekly exercise. 

  • Increase your daily step count (>10,000)
  • Increase in planned exercise (aiming for 30-minutes, 5-days of the week) walking around a shopping centre is not structured exercise – however, walking your dog is.

If you are already achieving the recommended exercise in your weekly routine. Identifying the intensity of your activity is the next step. Moderate exercise to begin will suffice if you are new to an exercise routine. If you have been exercising consistently, increasing the intensity toward ‘vigorous exercise’ or increasing the duration of exercise during the week is the next step.

Seek assistance. Your GP is a great place to start. Find an exercise physiologist for guidance with your physical activity. Diabetes educators are a service to assist you in learning how to manage your health.
With time, you can reverse effects, by living a healthier, active lifestyle.

Exerciseismedicine.org
ExerciseRight.com.au
Exercise, or exercise and diet for the management of polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis (2019)
Ndss.com.au (2020)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Review of Treatment Options With a Focus on Pharmacological Approaches (2013)

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