by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
Hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS have been linked to weight related symptoms including unexplained weight gain, difficulty losing weight, and increased cravings. It’s unbelievably difficult to experience these symptoms under normal circumstances but knowing that it’s out of your control makes it that much more frustrating.
While there is not yet a known cure for PCOS, there are steps you can take in your daily life in order to manage symptoms. Among other lifestyle changes, engaging in regular exercise has long been touted as one of the very best management tools for those living with PCOS, and for good reason. According to the Office on Women’s Health, losing weight has the ability to reduce blood glucose levels by improving the way the body processes insulin, and can even out hormone levels to regulate your menstrual cycle.
So, where to start? Check out some of the best exercise types for losing weight with PCOS below.
Interval Training (HIIT)
Often viewed as a more efficient form of cardio than its lower-intensity counterparts, high intensity interval training (HIIT), encompasses a broad spectrum of activities such as indoor or outdoor walking and running, bodyweight circuits, spin classes, and other cardio machine workouts. The key is to cycle intervals of intense, “give it your all” work with moderate periods of rest.
Because HIIT activities force the body to use up the amount of oxygen it has in reserves for physical activity (also known as VO2 max), experts argue that it actually sparks fat burning even after a workout is over, as the body has to work extra hard to pump oxygen to the blood. This means the potential to see weight loss results faster than a normal workout routine- but can end up being extremely taxing on the body without proper rest periods.
Swimming is a great form of aerobic exercise (and perfect for this summer weather). It has the ability to keep your heart rate up, ensuring a good workout, but eliminates the stress placed on joints by other forms of exercise.
Even if you don’t have a beach or pond near you, many towns have community pools, or open up a school pool to the public during the summer season. It’s an affordable, local option for toning muscle, maintaining a healthy weight, and building strength and endurance.
Another form of aerobic exercise that can be done indoors or out is cycling. Although it can be used in interval training, the pace can easily be suited to account for a lower impact workout, one that still provides countless benefits to the body.
Building lean muscle, strengthening bone density, increasing flexibility, and reducing stress are all counted among the common benefits of cycling. So, whether you hop on a bike at the gym, or grab your friends and family to go for a spin around the neighborhood, you’re getting a great workout that helps manage your PCOS symptoms.
Strength training allows the body to burn fat and improve blood sugar levels, in much the same way as cardio, while also maximizing the potential for muscle growth and overall strength. Though often categorized by “lifting weights,” squatting, push-pull workouts, muscle isolation (targeting one muscle group at a time, i.e. “leg day”), and bodyweight circuits are all commonly performed forms of strength training.
You definitely don’t always have to be in the gym to strength train, either. Bodyweight workouts require no equipment and very little space and can be done easily in the home. If you’re trying to kick up an at-home workout a notch, invest in a pair of light dumbbells or a set of resistance bands.
How much/often is safe to exercise with PCOS?
Losing weight isn’t just about burning fat. In fact, this sentiment has inspired a host of misinformation that can end up having negative health consequences for any person, not to mention one dealing with a condition that already impacts their health. Ultimately, no one person’s journey to fitness is the same, so it’s important to remember to take things at your own pace and ignore the urge to over train. Over training can cause adrenal strain and actually undo all the work you have done. Treat your body kindly, consume healthy calories, hydrate often, and take rest days.
There’s no miracle pill that will take away your PCOS but following these guidelines and trying some of the workouts above can help you manage your symptoms and learn to nurture your health in the process. The key is to find something you enjoy doing (be it one of the types above, yoga, walking, etc.) and do it regularly. It is good for mind, body, and spirit.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.