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Exercise and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome): The facts

Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Megan McMinn, lifts the lid on how exercise can help you better control your blood glucose levels, improve your sensitivity to insulin and manage the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

 

Have you ever experienced menstrual abnormality or infertility? Do you also find yourself gaining weight unexpectedly and notice changes to the skin? It may be possible that you are suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS affects approx. 8% of women of child rearing age, however there are several ways in which exercise can help prevent and aide the symptoms of PCOS.

 

Metabolic Response

PCOS and exercise Obesity, in particular abdominal obesity often impairs the body’s response to insulin regularity, a likely marker for the development of PCOS (Thomson, Buckley and Brinkworth, 2011).

A combination of cardiovascular aerobic exercise and resistance training is extremely beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity. It helps protect against the development of lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes in people with PCOS (Cuff et al., 2003).

Combining high intensity resistance exercise with endurance training will improve the body’s metabolic responses and enhance muscle strength. A greater proportion of lean body mass will also assist in managing the body’s response to glucose in the prevention of diabetes.

Hormonal Response

Exercise also has powerful effects on a women’s reproductive function. Vigorito et al (2007) found that women diagnosed with PCOS who were not ovulating, were able to restore their normal menstrual cycle following a 3-month aerobic training program. Improvements in hormone markers as a result of exercise meant that successful pregnancy rates and ovulation increased.

Psychological Response

Anxiety and depression are common psychological symptoms, in up to 40% of women who are diagnosed with PCOS. Given the known link between obesity and depression, a reduction in weight is extremely beneficial in order to manage emotional disturbances associated with PCOS (Farrell and Antoni, 2010).

Symptoms of PCOS such as acne and infertility are often what triggers a negative emotional response. The ability for exercise to improve or even eliminate these symptoms, may also result in positive improvements in mood and an individuals emotional state.

 

Exercise Right’s top 4 tips to exercise for PCOS

  • Improvements in insulin and hormonal responses through exercise can significantly improve reproductive function in women with PCOS
  • Aim to find an aerobic or resistance based activity that fits within the confines of your daily routine, preferably in a supportive, like minded environment
  • Find a friend, or join a women’s based exercise group to enhance the psychological benefits of exercise
  • Long term lifestyle and exercise maintenance will help improve the symptoms of PCOS as well as reduce the risk for developing diabetes

For a personalised program to help treat your PCOS, consult an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for more information.

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Megan McMinn is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and avid lover of all things Health and Science.

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References:

Cuff, D.J., Meneilly, G.S., Martin, A., Ignaszewski, A., Tildesley, H.D. and Frohlich, J.J., 2003. Effective exercise modality to reduce insulin resistance in women with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care, 26(11), pp.2977-2982.

 

Farrell, K. and Antoni, M.H., 2010. Insulin resistance, obesity, inflammation, and depression in polycystic ovary syndrome: biobehavioral mechanisms and interventions. Fertility and sterility, 94(5), pp.1565-1574.

 

Moran, L.J., Brinkworth, G., Noakes, M. and Norman, R.J., 2006. Effects of lifestyle modification in polycystic ovarian syndrome. Reproductive biomedicine online, 12(5), pp.569-578.

 

Thomson, R.L., Buckley, J.D. and Brinkworth, G.D., 2011. Exercise for the treatment and management of overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a review of the literature. Obesity Reviews, 12(5), pp.e202-e210.

 

Vigorito, C., Giallauria, F., Palomba, S., Cascella, T., Manguso, F., Lucci, R., De Lorenzo, A., Tafuri, D., Lombardi, G., Colao, A. and Orio, F., 2007. Beneficial effects of a three-month structured exercise training program on cardiopulmonary functional capacity in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 92(4), pp.1379-1384.