PCOS and Exercise: tips to get started
Physical activity is a key component in managing PCOS naturally. Not only does it decrease insulin resistance and inflammation, but it aids in weight loss, decreases risk of heart disease and diabetes, and can help with mood! These are all important issues in PCOS. But what kind of exercise is best? The conflicting info on the internet can drive you nuts! Since May is National Fitness and Sport Month, I’ll be focusing on PCOS and exercise in my next few posts to help clear the confusion.
And best of all, I’ve interviewed six top PCOS exercise experts to get answers to your burning questions! This first post will be on the some of the challenges associated with exercising with PCOS as well as some tips to get started on a program.
To learn more about the experts, check out their bios on the bottom of the page.
PCOS and exercise: what are the challenges?
Most of us don’t exercise on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. Lack of time and motivation are two of the most common excuses I hear. But when you have PCOS, there may be additional barriers to exercise. Read on to find out what the experts identify as exercise challenges for women with PCOS. After all, they work with women with PCOS on a daily basis. In addition, most of them have PCOS so they can relate. And even more importantly, find out how to break through these challenges and get tips to start on your exercise program.
-First and foremost is gym anxiety. There are many who have had poor experiences in their past where comments have been by other gym go-ers, or in some cases even trainers due to larger body sizes.
-Low energy levels. In addition, I have dealt with clients who come to me withlow energy levels and find it hard to do daily tasks, let alone an exercise routine.
-The biggest challenge I have seen women face is motivation issues. Why? Many women with PCOS are attuned to using the scale as a measure of their results. When this is your sole unit of measurement regarding any type of physical results it can be frustrating. I encourage all of my clients – with PCOS or not – to be wary of what the scale says. It is not a true measure of your body. We rely on photographs, body measurements and body awareness as we move throughout their program. It gives them (and me) a better idea of the bigger picture as they work toward their goals.
-The biggest challenge I notice is energy and mindset. Women with PCOS are already challenged with the hormonal aspects of the disorder, and that a lot of times turns into struggle with weight loss, struggle with mood swings, and struggle with energy. When you already feel defeated after having tried what seems like everything, you tend to get down about trying anything else and almost lose hope in any results.
– I also notice that most women aren’t even sure where to begin with exercise. With the internet being swamped with everyone becoming a fitness influencer, it can be confusing on who to follow and which one will help bring results.
-Doing the wrong type of exercise for their PCOS. They might be working out regularly and intensely but because they are not honoring their specific hormone imbalance, by doing the right exercise, they can make their PCOS worse. Therefore, it is important to first establish the type of PCOS they have and then decide on an exercise that is right for them.
– Unable to stick to an exercise program because they don’t enjoy it. A lot of the time I find women with PCOS doing an exercise program either because they saw online that it can help women with PCOS, their friend does it, or because it is trending. Unfortunately, when you don’t choose an exercise you enjoy you won’t stick to it.
-Thinking cardio is the only way to lose weight. Spending hours on end doing cardio and no resistance training. Resistance training is not just something men should do, women should be lifting weights too. Not only does it help lower testosterone levels and increase insulin sensitivity but if you want to lose weight and achieve that lean and ‘toned’ look, the answer is weight training. Weight training will increase your metabolism, help you build muscle, strength and help you feel good.
-Going into the gym with no plan. Having a thought-out plan before you step into the gym stops you from wasting time wondering what you should be doing.
-Thinking you need to exercise all the time. A common misconception is that you have to train 7 days a week but the reality is, you don’t. Exercise is a stress on the body and while exercise lowers inflammation, over exercising can increase inflammation in the body. Your body needs rest days to help it recover from the stress you put on it through exercise.
-I find that women typically don’t know how to exercise for PCOS. Often our society thinks we must do endless hours of cardio and that isn’t the case. Weight training is so beneficial for all women, including those with PCOS. HIIT is also a great option as it is time efficient, offers cardio and resistance training benefits but it’s not always recommended for everyone as it could become too stressful on the body. Taking care to not over stress the body is important so adequate rest days are crucial.-
-Following an unrealistic workout program can be very destructive. Nothing will discourage you and derail your progress faster than falling short of unreasonable expectations. Even if you have PCOS, it is not necessary to jump into a complicated or time-
consuming exercise program. It is better to start small
and if you feel like doing more let it be because you enjoy your workout!
-I find that women typically don’t know how to exercise for PCOS. Often our society thinks we must do endless hours of cardio and that isn’t the case. Weight training is so beneficial for all women, including those with PCOS.
-HIIT is also a great option as it is time efficient, offers cardio and resistance training benefits but it’s not always recommended for everyone as it could become too stressful on the body. Taking care to not over stress the body is important so adequate rest days are crucial.
-The top challenges I see women with PCOS are overwhelm, fatigue, and poor energy, self-esteem and motivation. These challenges are preventing them to get started and stay committed to exercise. Many women start and stop shortly after because they get discouraged by their results.
-It is important to know that exercise is not the answer to weight loss, it is for overall health and definitely, for brain health. Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet is important for fitness and overall health of women with PCOS.
PCOS and exercise: tips to get started
If you have PCOS and want to get started on an exercise program, I get you are overwhelmed with the conflicting info on the internet. Get some tips from the experts on where to start. And if you are already exercising, stay tuned for an upcoming post on fine tuning your exercise program.
The all-or-nothing attitude destroys a lot of people. Although exercising 4-5 days a week is recommended, it doesn’t mean you have to start there. Busy schedules can get in the way of doing that.
-I tell my beginners three things:
-Any day you exercise gets you a day closer to your goals
-Schedule your workouts in your calendar and treat it like an appointment with your best friend. You are the priority. You wouldn’t cancel on your best friend, so why cancel on yourself?
-Find something you love and make it a part of your program. Although strength training and HIIT are recommended for PCOS, it’s not the end all be all. If you hate doing it, it’s not going to get done. So if biking is your thing,
If you’re someone feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information out there these days, and where exactly to start my best advice is to connect with the coach that you’re most interested in working with. Connect with 2-3 coaches and compare the pros and cons to each of them. Just because someone is a fitness expert does not mean that you will connect with them. You need to work with someone you can trust, someone who is reliable, and someone who is going to customize your program. Living with PCOS it’s crucial you work with someone that not only understands PCOS, and beware there are many people now claiming to understand it, but also working with someone who can understand what you’re going through living with PCOS.
Seek out activities and environments that make you feel comfortable or better yet bring you joy. If joining a gym gives you anxiety, workout at home. If you hate running but love to dance, take a hip hop class for cardio. Exercise will hopefully be a part of your life for the rest of your life, so you have plenty of time to explore new methods. Build confidence and consistency by choosing physical activities that feel natural to you.
The biggest piece of advice I would give is to find a workout you enjoy and see yourself doing in the long term. As no matter how great an exercise is, if you don’t find enjoyment from doing it and you instead find it to be a burden or chore you won’t do it consistently. Remember consistency is what leads to results
But also remember that we all start from ground zero, so start off easy and gradually increase your frequency, intensity and duration. We improve as we go and when we practice.
Start where you’re at. No one wakes up and becomes a champion. Do what you can in the moment, and you will continue to improve and advance your exercises. Don’t be ashamed, embarrassed, or discouraged by your current situation… this will not be your final destination. If you’re unsure on what to do then become a student. Do your research or reach out to a professional that can help.
Make a list of physical activities that you enjoy doing and/or used to do as a child. Find ways to incorporate them into your life. If you have been sedentary for a while, commit to 10-15 minutes twice a week. Establish a plan to increase frequency and length every month or so. As you stay consistent, you will feel more confident, stronger, and healthier. You will get curious about your abilities and will want to try different physical activities. Get accountability bodies, set challenges and invite family and friends to join, block your schedule and do not let anything else, other than emergencies, get in your way. Be patient with yourself. It takes several weeks of consistent practice to change habits. Often, hiring a personal trainer to motivate you, teach you technique and form, and keep you accountable is a great option to kick start. In the end, embrace and celebrate this new lifestyle that will bring you higher levels of positive energy.
Meet the experts
Ginny Silvestro: As both a teacher and a coach, I’ve always strived to help others see the best in themselves and guide them to achieve their highest potential. My number one goal as a personal trainer is to provide excellent support and tools to my clients so that they can enjoy a lifetime of success. I offer both online and in-person training programs, the most popular being the BE Fit! Brigade 12-week program.
Learn more at BodyEnhancingFitness.com
Follow my business: Website Facebook Pinterest
Follow my personal fitness journey: Facebook Instagram Twitter
Erika Volk: Erika is the PCOS personal trainer. She guides women living with PCOS towards a lifestyle that gets their symptoms under control, so they have the time, energy, and confidence to thrive. She’s a certified personal trainer, a nutrition coach, and creator of the PCOS Fit Studio workout videos. You can read her blog at the pcospersonaltrainer.com, or follow her on YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and FaceBook.
Despina Pavlou: Despina Pavlou is the founder of PCOS Oracle and a Certified Personal Trainer. She is on a mission to raise awareness about PCOS and empower women with the knowledge they need to reverse their PCOS naturally.
PCOS and Nutrition Podcast:
Podcast link to iTunes
YouTube: @Despina Pavlou
Lindsay Martin: I want women to understand that just because you are dealt a different hand in life does not mean you can’t achieve the desires that are in your heart. When I created FitChick Squad programs, I knew my goal was to help ALL women achieve the lifestyle they desired. As women, we are surrounded by the pressure to be perfect and hide our “flaws” that society claims don’t fit. What I teach my ladies is that perfection does not exist, if you’re chasing something that can’t be achieved then you will never feel happy or satisfied. Work with a coach who is relatable, trustworthy, and has YOU in mind!
Find me on instagram @lindsayrenemartin
Letisha Bates: You can find me on Instagram@ bateslovesweights as well as Facebook or my website LiveFreeHealthCoaching where I offer a holistic approach to weight loss for women, especially those who struggle with PCOS.
Maria Horstmann: Maria Horstmann is the founder of www.BeFabBeYou.com. As a Transformational Speaker, Health and Fitness Coach, and Corporate Wellness Consultant, she creates personalized experiences and programs for single clients, groups, and organizations. She has helped clients overcome struggles with weight, fatigue, burnout, belly fat, brain fog, insulin resistance, blood sugar and hormone imbalances. Step-by-step, virtually and/or in-person, she educates them on fitness and strength, mindfulness, smart nutritional choices, and management of stress and sleep.
3x 45-min Online Personal Training sessions for $99.00: Get it NOW at www.BeFabBeYou.com/pt/taster
FREE 30-Minute Energy Audit Strategy Session: Schedule it NOW at www.BeFabBeYou.com/energy-audit
I’d love to hear any exercise questions you have …or any crazy exercise myths you’ve heard!
Stay tuned for more blog posts on PCOS and exercise including:
The best exercise for PCOS
Does strength training make you bulky?
The craziest exercise myths
Motivating exercise tips
Is intense exercise bad for PCOS?
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.