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, however there are several ways in which exercise can help prevent and aide the symptoms of PCOS.


How can exercise support ladies?


Metabolic Response

Obesity, in particular abdominal obesity often impairs the body’s response to insulin regularity, a likely marker for the development of PCOS.

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.

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. Research found that diagnosed women 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 unbalances associated with PCOS.

Symptoms such as acne and infertility are often what triggers a negative emotional response. The ability for exercise to improve or even get rid of these symptoms, can result in positive improvements in mood and emotional state.


Exercise Right’s top 4 take away thoughts

  • 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 as well as reduce the risk for developing diabetes
  • Not sure where to start? Why not download the free Nike Running Club app that provides you with guided runs that motivate and coach you on your running journey


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.