September 7th -11th is Women’s Health Week and is a great opportunity to discuss the importance of exercise for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects many women throughout their childbearing years. A study by March et al. suggests that over 70% of women may have PCOS and are yet to be diagnosed. If you have been gaining lots of weight, but haven’t changed your diet/exercise routine, your periods are irregular or absent altogether, and your skin experiences regular break outs then you may be suffering from PCOS. Your GP can run tests to diagnose this for you. The good news is that diet and exercise changes can be helpful in managing the above symptoms, and allow you lead a healthy and fertile life.
How does PCOS affect the body and how can exercise help this?
Obesity and being overweight is a common symptom of PCOS and can lead to a number of other comorbidities, including insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. A combination of aerobic and resistance exercise can be hugely beneficial for reducing/maintaining weight and preventing the onset of these metabolic diseases
PCOS can also cause excess testosterone production which can impact ovulation and disrupt the menstrual cycle. However, Vigorito and colleagues found that diagnosed women who were not ovulating, were able to restore their normal menstrual cycle following a 3-month aerobic training program. Regular aerobic exercise also demonstrated improved hormone markers which meant higher successful pregnancy rates.
Finally, PCOS can have a large impact on mental health with 40% of women diagnosed with PCOS suffering from anxiety or depression. There is long standing evidence linking obesity and depression, therefore a reduction in weight has great benefits in managing emotional imbalances. Finding a friend or an exercise group can also have great psychological and social health benefits in women with PCOS.
If you or someone you know needs help managing polycystic ovarian syndrome reach out to your GP or come and see our female exercise physiologist at Singleton Physiology to help get you started.