Exercises To Try To Improve Your PCOS Symptoms

Exercise has been known to offer relief from symptoms related to a multitude of ailments. From IBS to stress, painful periods, and ADHD, working out has a way of lessening many forms of discomfort and keeping the body functioning as it should. And it's no different for those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a condition in which an overproduction of androgen, the male sex hormone, leads to irregular periods, ovarian cysts, excess body hair, weight gain, and infertility (per Johns Hopkins Medicine). Women with PCOS also experience insulin resistance at a higher rate, which can contribute to obesity — and obesity only worsens PCOS symptoms, according to Penn Medicine.

However, a meta-analysis of 16 studies published in Frontiers in Physiology concluded that vigorous aerobic exercise was most likely to reduce both body mass index and insulin resistance in women with the condition, suggesting that exercise may be the key to PCOS management. Let's take a closer look.

The best exercises for PCOS management

While PCOS cannot be cured, Mayo Clinic notes that the symptoms are best managed by maintaining a healthy weight and participating in an active lifestyle. Sports and exercise medicine consultant Dr. Rebecca Robinson told Women's Health that cardio, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and weight training are three great exercise modalities for women with PCOS.

Dr. Robinson explains that cardio is king when it comes to heart health, staving off heart disease and high blood pressure, which are common among women with PCOS and insulin resistance. A study published in PLoS One found that, between two groups of women participating in 10 weeks of weight training or HIIT, the women who did HIIT experienced the most significant improvement in regard to insulin resistance. However, weight training proved most effective in reducing androgen levels in those with PCOS, according to the analysis in Frontiers in Physiology.

Because all three forms of exercise contribute to PCOS management differently, Dr. Robinson suggests that a balance be struck between them. She notes that ideally, women with PCOS should be working out 5 days a week. But for those who can't, 2 to 3 days is the minimum. While there is no "bad" way to work out with PCOS, Dr. Robinson warns against overtraining. A 2017 study published in Medicine (Baltimore) reported that doing any exercise in excess can cause the stress hormone cortisol to build up in the body, which can add to menstrual irregularity.