Exercise as it relates to Disease/The benefits of exercise for reducing symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Exercise as a treatment for Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)Edit

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common conditions disturbing hormone secretion in females. This dysfunction affects approximately 4-12% of women of reproductive age (~12 – 44 years of age)1 and presents at adolescence.2 PCOS can vary in degree of severity for each individual, although no uniform definition of the syndrome has been agreed upon by health experts, as the precise cause is unknown. The syndrome cannot be cured, however it can be managed.3 The common ailments for diagnosis include the inability of the body to effectively release sugar into the blood (insulin resistance), elevated male hormones (androgenic), cysts on the ovaries and dysfunctional menstrual cycle (anovulation). These can alter the body normal function resulting in the following common symptoms:

  • Infertility
  • Acne
  • Hirsutism (excess body hair)
  • Acanthosis Nigricans (skin pigmentation)
A polycystic ovary (aka PCO) shown on an Ultrasound Image.

Women who suffer from PCOS have also showed an increased likelihood of being overweight or obese, developing type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.1,3 It is essential for females with PCOS to maintain a healthy weight and engage in regular physical activity through lifestyle changes to help reduce the symptoms of the syndrome and decrease the risk of developing the previously mentioned health complications.4,5

Studies have revealed that the incorporation of regular exercise can decrease high concentrations of androgens, induce regular menstrual patterns, reduce insulin resistance and assist with weight control, which helps to prevent diseases associated with PCOS.1,3-5

Before undertaking an exercise program, it is important to first contact the your health care provider, especially if health complications already exist. Daily recommendations for physical activity include approximately 30 minutes of continuous cardiovascular exercise (e.g. walking and swimming) on most, if not all days. Additionally vigorous intensity activity should be included where possible approximately 3–4 days per week.6

It has also been shown that resistance training also helped to improve insulin resistance and increase metabolic rate.5,7 Consultation of a health care professional (i.e. Personal Trainer) is essential for beginners. A typical program should include compound exercises (using more than one muscle) and be performed at least 3 times a week.8

For further ways to incorporate these guidelines into your daily routine view:


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1. Khademi, A, Alleyassin, A, Aghahosseini, M, Tabatabaeefar, L & Amini, M 2010, ‘The effect of exercise in PCOS Women who exercise regularly’, Sports Medicine Research Center, vol. 1, no. 7, pp. 35–40, viewed 5 October 2011, SPORTDiscus (EBSCO)

2. Jeanes, Y, Barr, S, Smith, K & Hart, K 2009, ‘Dietary management of women with polycystic ovary syndrome in the United Kingdom: the role of dietitians’, The British Dietetic Association Ltd, vol. 22, pp. 551–8, viewed 5 October 2011, SPORTDiscus (EBSCO)

3. Harwood, K, Vuguin, P & DiMartino-Nardi, J 2007, ‘Current approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome in youth’, Hormone Research, vol. 68, pp. 209–17, viewed 5 October 2011, SPORTDiscus (EBSCO)

4. Bruner, B, Chad, K & Chizen, D 2006, ‘Effects of exercise and nutritional counselling in women with polycystic ovary syndrome’, Applied Physiology and Nutritional Metabolism, vol. 31, pp. 384–91, viewed 5 October 2011, SPORTDiscus (EBSCO)

5. Barclay, L & Lie, D 2007, Exercise training program may be helpful in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome, CME/CE, viewed 5 October 2011, http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/551735

6. Department of Health and Aging 2005, National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults, viewed October 11, 2011, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/phd-physical-activity-adults-pdf-cnt.htm

7. Göteborg University 2007, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – Effect of physical exercise and electroacupuncture, U.S National Institutes of Health, viewed 5 October 2011, http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00484705

8. Winett, R & Carpinelli, R 2001,’Potential health related benefits of resistance training, Preventative Medicine, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 503–13, viewed 11 October 2011, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743501909090