Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are encouraged by their providers to exercise regularly, and this is good advice, because exercise has some great benefits for women with PCOS. It might be strange to hear that the effects of a hormonal imbalance can be countered with some time at the gym, but it’s true.
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce PCOS symptoms and make life with the condition more manageable, and it does this in a couple of different ways.
Insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels
Insulin helps to lower blood glucose levels in the body. The higher a woman’s insulin levels, the more androgen her body produces. Androgen hormones are responsible for many of the PCOS symptoms including acne and abnormal facial or body hair growth.
Exercise helps improve the body’s insulin sensitivity, which means lower androgen levels and better regulation of glucose levels (too-high glucose levels for an extended period of time can increase one’s risk of other diseases).
Frequency of ovulation
Many women with PCOS don’t ovulate. A few studies have found that some women with PCOS who engaged in regular exercise experienced an improvement in their ovulation cycle. Weight loss from exercise can, in many cases, help a woman start ovulating again.
You might be surprised to hear that exercise alone, with or without weight loss, improves cholesterol levels in women with PCOS. This is especially important because women with PCOS are at a higher risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases than women without the condition. Fortunately, women don’t have to lose weight to get the benefits; exercise alone can do the job.
Women are encouraged by their providers to exercise regularly, because exercise can have great health benefits for women with PCOS.
The extra weight that many carry in the midsection, called visceral fat, is a common symptom of PCOS. Working out regularly actually decreases visceral fat, regardless of whether or not the person loses any weight. This is huge; having excess visceral fat increases a person’s chances of type 2 diabetes, metabolic disturbances, and cardiovascular disease. In other words, even the smallest reduction in visceral fat is good.
Weight loss doesn’t always have to be part of an exercise regimen. But for women with PCOS who are also overweight or obese, weight loss can reduce symptoms, lower the risk of disease, and restore menstruation and ovulation.
As you can see, exercise is an essential tool for women with PCOS. It has so many benefits, and just about zero repercussions (besides a little extra laundry from time to time).
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