What Is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a complex, long-term health condition that affects various systems in your body, including the endocrine, metabolic, and reproductive systems. PCOS is characterized by irregular menstrual periods, multiple cysts on the ovaries, and elevated levels of male sex hormones, known as hyperandrogenism.

In the past, it was believed that PCOS ceased to be a concern after menopause. However, recent research has shown that postmenopausal women with PCOS are still at risk for health issues like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. The good news is that exercise can be vital in managing these risks.

Common Signs and Symptoms of PCOS

If you suspect you may have PCOS, here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:

  1. Irregular or heavy menstrual periods.
  2. Acne.
  3. Excessive hair growth on the face or body.
  4. Hair thinning or balding.
  5. Weight management difficulties.
  6. Concerns about body image.
  7. Mood swings.
  8. Issues with blood glucose control.
  9. Infertility.

What to Do If You Experience These Symptoms

It’s estimated that up to 70% of people with PCOS go undiagnosed. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to consult your GP for further evaluation and potentially see a gynecologist for additional testing.

Can Exercise Improve PCOS?

While research on the direct impact of exercise on PCOS is still evolving, there’s promising evidence suggesting that certain types and intensities of exercise can benefit individuals with PCOS. Exercise has been proven to reduce the risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and depression, regardless of body weight or shape changes.

Additionally, exercise can improve your hormonal balance and reproductive features, potentially enhancing fertility. If you experience discomfort or bloating during your menstrual cycle, gentle exercises like yoga, low-impact aerobics, mobility exercises, and Tai Chi may provide relief.

Consistent exercise can also help manage hormonal fluctuations, potentially reducing the severity of menstrual flow and cramping, although these improvements may not be immediate. Regular physical activity is key.

Recommended Exercise Guidelines

The specific exercise requirements for PCOS are not yet firmly established. However, here are some general guidelines you can follow:

For those with low-to-medium fitness levels:

  • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week to prevent weight gain.

For those with medium-to-high fitness levels:

  • Strive for 250 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 120 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week to support weight loss and prevent weight regain.

Incorporate at least two strength training sessions per week.

Additionally, try to stay active throughout the day by reducing prolonged sitting and taking short walking breaks every 30 minutes. Aim to be physically active every day of the week.

Getting Started with Exercise

If you’re new to exercise, these guidelines might seem daunting. However, remember that small changes can make a big difference. Start by reducing the time you spend sitting. Gradually increase your structured physical activity, such as visiting the pool on weekends or going for nature hikes with friends. Research consistently recommends exercising with others in natural settings, as it can be more enjoyable and sustainable.

If you’re unsure where to begin, consider seeking guidance from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. They can help you find exercise routines that fit into your schedule, discover activities you enjoy, and teach you safe and effective weightlifting techniques.

In the journey to better health and well-being, remember that the key is to make physical activity sustainable and enjoyable. If it’s not, consulting with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can be an excellent starting point.