How Exercise Helps PCOS Symptoms

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Two multi-ethnic women in their 30s exercising outdoors on a sunny day, lifting handweights. They are standing, smiling and looking at the camera.

I’m excited to stare this guest blog post from PCOS & exercise expert, Erika Volk. Managing your weight is just one of the many reasons why women living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome should workout. Time and again, women living with PCOS are told that losing weight will improve their symptoms. It is true losing even just a few pounds can help. But do you know what frustrates me? I don’t hear much talk about all of the other wonderful ways working out can make life better for women living with PCOS!

Weight loss is not the only reason to work out if you have PCOS. In fact, it may take quite a while for you to see any weight loss from your efforts at the gym, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you! Why? Because exercise improves a broad range of PCOS symptoms.

How exercise helps PCOS symptoms

  • Regular Physical Activity Lowers Androgens
    Facial hair, acne, and hair loss are caused by having higher than normal levels of androgens (male hormones like testosterone) circulating in our systems. Some medications will help you lower androgens and reduce these embarrassing symptoms. However, they are not without side effects and additional costs. Regular physical activity can help lower androgens without a single side effect or trip to the pharmacy.

    Researchers in Brazil followed 43 women with PCOS as they participated in a 16-week strength training program. After 16 weeks of regular strength training, the participants saw a significant decrease in their testosterone levels. (1) Even a modest amount of movement can help bring down androgens; a recent study found that women with PCOS who walked more than 7500 steps a day had significantly lower androgens than sedentary women. (2)

  • Erika VolkWorkouts Shrink Carb Cravings and Boost Energy
    Many women living with PCOS have trouble sticking to a diet because of powerful cravings for carbs and inconsistent energy levels. These symptoms are linked to insulin resistance (IR). Medical experts do not fully understand the relationship between IR and PCOS, but we do know that women living with PCOS have trouble metabolizing glucose because their cells aren’t as sensitive to the hormone insulin.
  • Regular exercise improves insulin resistance through 3 different mechanisms:
    -Exercise increases muscle. Muscle cells are one of the bodies main consumers of glucose so having more cells helps keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.
    -Exercise makes muscle cells more sensitive to insulin. The result? Your pancreas needs to make less insulin to keep your metabolism running smoothly.
    -An exciting new research study found that exercise changes the expression of genes that are thought to cause PCOS-related insulin resistance.(3)

    Reducing IR through exercise can cut carb cravings, improve energy levels and prevent health complications like heart disease and diabetes.

  • Less Depression and Anxiety, More Confidence and Sex Drivecouple exercising
    Improved mental health and romantic relationships are some of the most surprising and enjoyable results of working out!
    If you struggle with the PCOS symptoms of anxiety or depression, exercise can give you relief. Have you ever heard the term ‘runner’s high’? It’s a real phenomenon that can be created with any workout. Physical activity stimulates the production of several ‘feel good’ hormones in the brain resulting in a natural high. In fact, some therapists prescribe exercise to patients suffering from depression and anxiety.

    Are you trying to conceive or just want to enjoy life with your partner a bit more? Try working out as a couple. Hitting the gym causes both men and women to feel more confident about their bodies. Plus, PCOS women have reported increased sex drive after participating in strength training programs (4). More body confidence and a better libido make for a great combination!  pic credit

Understanding how being active can improve annoying PCOS symptoms might be the motivation you need to turn one workout into a lifelong habit. So while you’re waiting for the numbers on the scale to move, don’t forget to pay attention to your overall well-being. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

 

Would you like to start working out today? That’s awesome! Click here to have my 10-minute bodyweight workout sent to your inbox.

 

About Erika

I’d like to thank Erika for writing this blog post. Erika Volk is a certified personal trainer, Nutrition Coach, and fitness writer. She holds certifications from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), Precision Nutrition, and TRX She is the creator of the PCOS Fit Studio workout videos .  Erika believes that lifestyle modifications are the best treatment for PCOS. If you want to learn more about how exercise can alleviate PCOS symptoms, please visit her website.

 

References
 1. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/html/10.1055/s-0036-1585457

2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40618-016-0570-1

3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cen.13307/full

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25982537

 

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