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Do women with PCOS really need to exercise?
Everyone needs regular physical activity regardless if they have PCOS or not.
Brushing teeth is a daily necessity to keep teeth and gums healthy and to prevent
problems later in life, and physical activity should be viewed the same way.
If you currently don't have any health problems, exercise can help with weight
management, keep blood pressure in check, regulate menstrual cycles, and
prevent complications later like diabetes or heart disease (which women with
PCOS are at a higher risk for). If you currently have medical complications like
elevated insulin, cholesterol or triglycerides, regular physical activity is a very
effective way to make these conditions better and prevent them from getting
Is Exercise Better Than Dieting For PCOS?
New research says yes. A study published in Human Reproduction compared the
effects of exercise versus a low-calorie diet in 40 women with PCOS. Half of the
women exercised using an exercise bike for 30 minutes, 3 days a week while the
other half consumed a low-calorie diet. At the end of 24 weeks both groups
showed improved fertility, with those who exercised having higher ovulation
rates. Other findings: the women who exercised had better insulin sensitivity and
lost more inches around their waist than those who dieted, despite losing less
weight.This study suggests that regular physical activity may be more important than
restricting energy intake in improving ovulation. It also shows that you don't have
to lose weight to see improvement in your insulin levels or your waist size.
How can this be? Physical activity improves the way our muscle cells respond to
insulin. Reducing insulin improves ovulation. Exercise also preserves lean body
mass by reducing body fat and building muscle which also helps lower insulin.
Bottom line: Regular physical activity in combination with a healthy diet is
beneficial at improving fertility and insulin in women with PCOS.
How much exercise do women with PCOS have to do?
Government guidelines recommend 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each
day to help maintain weight. To lose weight, 90 minutes of exercise a day is
suggested. The good news is exercise can be done in increments. For example,
walking your dog for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening
will still add up to 30 minutes. The key is to get your heart rate up and maintain it
throughout the activity.
I have PCOS and am afraid that lifting weights will make me bigger and
make me look like a man.
Lifting weights is a very efficient way to improve insulin levels and help with
weight loss. It should be part of an exercise routine for all women with PCOS. In
general, women with PCOS tend to have more muscle distributed in their upper
body region which can make them look and feel more masculine. Lifting weights
will add to more muscle growth and possibly a slight increase in size (as well as
an increase in metabolism), so your clothes may fit differently. However, females
do not gain muscle mass like men, making it highly unlikely for you to get
noticeably bigger or actually look like a man.
I have PCOS and have always been physically active, much more than my
thin friends, yet my weight hasn't budged. Why?
While you may be frustrated that you have been putting in a lot of hard work and
haven't been seeing results with weight loss, rest assured that your efforts aren't
for nothing. Have you thought about the fact that the exercise you do has
prevented weight gain? Also, how has your blood work been? Has your insulin,
cholesterol, triglycerides, or glucose improved? Weight loss can be difficult for women with PCOS and it sometimes takes reductions in caloric intake along with regular exercise to achieve. Even then,
some women with PCOS won't see much of a change in weight. Usually, this is
because of years of elevated insulin levels. This does not mean you aren't
healthy. Women with PCOS can greatly improve their health and even conceive
despite being at a heavier weight. But you have to eat right and be physically
active to be healthy.
Consider your exercise routine. Is it always the same machines, same amount of
time and intensity or same amount of weights? If yes, then it's time to kick it up a
notch. Trying different activities like tennis, dance class, kickboxing a few times a
week are great alternative to cardio machines. Also, make sure to increase the
amount of weight that you lift to challenge your muscles more.
Tips to be more physically active:
· Schedule your day around exercise. If it's the other way around, it may
never get done.
· Take the batteries out of the remote control.
· Exercise can be spread out in 10 to 15 minute increments instead of all at
· Use the exercise equipment while watching a TV show or during the
· Place Dance, Dance Revolution or Wii with or without your kids.
· Make family time active - ride bikes, play outside, go to a park, walk the
· Wear a pedometer and try to get 10,000 or more steps a day.
· Walk the stairs instead of the elevator.
· Park the car farther away from an entrance.
· While at the grocery store carry a basket instead of pushing one.
· Get 10 or 15 minutes of walking morning, noon, and evening.
· Take your walking shoes with you wherever you go so you are prepared if
you have.down time.
· Walk to do your errands (if feasible).
· Limit TV.
· Do laps around the mall before you begin shopping.
· When you cook, use the cans and jugs to do ten reps of an arm exercise
before you open it and put it in the recipe.
· Do your own yard work and house cleaning.