Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrinopathy in women,
thought to affect between 6-18% of women of reproductive age (Teede, 2013)
Unfortunately, many women have reported delayed diagnosis and an overall dissatisfaction in the diagnosis experience overall, the average time to diagnosis being eight years.
Symptoms of PCOS include insulin resistance – trouble with managing blood glucose levels, heavy/long periods, not ovulating, increased hair & acne, as well as obesity and trouble losing weight. There are four types of PCOS, where the primary symptoms all differ, meaning the main concerns or impacts of PCOS can differ between women. Additionally, being overweight can increase the severity of symptoms and risk of further disease development.
Focus group studies have been performed and women with PCOS often report that they struggle with a range of aspects across their life, including loss of femininity, body image distress, and confusion around hormonal balance (Ee et al., 2020).
Those with PCOS are more at risk of Type 2 & Gestational Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and mental health concerns. All of which lifestyle modification, including exercise, is a first line treatment and preventive measure.
In Australian women aged between 22-27 without children and diagnosed with PCOS, 60% meet the physical activity guidelines for health (Tay et al., 2020).
What are the outcomes of exercise in PCOS?
Independent of weight loss, regular exercise can improve:
• Insulin resistance
• Cardiovascular fitness
• Changes in body composition – increased muscle mass
• Reproductive features; ovarian hormones, ovulation, and menstrual cycle regularity
• Psychological and Mental health wellbeing
What exercise is best?
A combination of aerobic and resistance training has shown the best reductions in insulin resistance, body mass, androgens & testosterone levels, as well as increasing fitness, overall health and reproductive function. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has shown good results in reducing insulin resistance and body composition (Santos et al., 2021)
Tips for getting started:
• Start with small “bite sized” sessions to start building a routine
• Aerobic exercise for 10-15minute blocks – this can be swimming, walking, jogging, cycling etc.
• Resistance training using large muscle groups: squats, chest press, rows
• Find modes that you enjoy: at home, group classes, sporting group/clubs
The evidence in participating in regular exercise in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has shown to be beneficial in both manage the disease, but also the prevention of further health complications.
An Exercise Physiologist can help you use exercise to manage your symptoms, and prevent disease progression by tailoring an exercise program to your needs, likes, and ability, as well as equipping you with the tools for overall lifestyle management.
The myPhysioSA fitness and rehabilitation team of accredited exercise physiologists (AEPs) can help you with your goals. This can be one-to-one through a range of referral pathways including Medicare and through your private health insurance.
Accredited exercise physiologists (AEPs) are skilled in determining exercise prescription specific to your needs.
1. Ee, C., Smith, C., Moran, L., MacMillan, F., Costello, M., Baylock, B., & Teede, H. (2020). “The whole package deal”: experiences of overweight/obese women living with polycystic ovary syndrome. BMC women’s health, 20(1), 221. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-020-01090-7
2. Santos, I., Nunes, F., Queiros, V. S., Cobucci, R. N., Dantas, P. B., Soares, G. M., Cabral, B., Maranhão, T., & Dantas, P. (2021). Effect of high-intensity interval training on metabolic parameters in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PloS one, 16(1), e0245023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245023
3. Tay, C. T., Moran, L. J., Harrison, C. L., Brown, W. J., & Joham, A. E. (2020). Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in women with and without polycystic ovary syndrome: An Australian population-based cross-sectional study. Clinical endocrinology, 93(2), 154–162. https://doi.org/10.1111/cen.14205
4. Teede, H. J., Joham, A. E., Paul, E., Moran, L. J., Loxton, D., Jolley, D., & Lombard, C. (2013). Longitudinal weight gain in women identified with polycystic ovary syndrome: results of an observational study in young women. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 21(8), 1526–1532. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20213