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Health

01st May 2024

Exercises to help reduce PCOS symptoms during painful periods

Sophie Collins

PCOS

When you’re in the midst of your worst PCOS or Endometriosis symptoms, you’ll (or at least I) will try just about anything to minimise the pain.

From cramping, to headaches, nausea, back pain and more, the interest in reducing the side effects of these disorders is constantly on the rise as more people are diagnosed.

Almost 1-in-5 women of childbearing age suffer with PCOS in Ireland and searches on Google for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) even hit a record peak globally in April 2024.

With this in mind, Global Healthcare Global Healthcare Provider Aster DM Healthcare has put together a guide covering the most effective exercises to help with PCOS symptoms.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects reproductive-aged women, characterised by irregular periods and elevated levels of male hormones. 

This condition often leads to the development of small ovarian cysts and can contribute to insulin resistance, heightening the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

Alarmingly, the World Health Organisation reports that up to 70% of PCOS cases remain undiagnosed. 

The exact cause of PCOS is not clear. However, regular exercise is an excellent strategy for managing PCOS symptoms, emphasising its importance in enhancing the well-being of women with this condition, regardless of their weight.

“Exercise is a key addition for anyone wanting to manage PCOS better”

Aster DM Healthcare spokesperson

What are some great exercises for people with PCOS?

  • Aerobic activities: From walking, to cycling, and swimming, aerobic exercises boost heart health and enhance insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for managing PCOS.
  • Strength training: Building muscle mass through resistance training, using weights or bodyweight exercises, aids in weight management, and improves metabolic health.
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT): Brief periods of high-intensity exercise alternated with rest have been proven to aid in fat loss and enhance insulin sensitivity.
  • Mind-body exercises: Practices such as yoga and Pilates not only support physical fitness but also mitigate stress and anxiety, common among individuals with PCOS.

Walking

Walking is a simple, effective way to enhance well-being with minimal downsides. 

It boosts mood, reduces stress hormones, and can lower general blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity (how effective the body is at lowering blood sugar), making it a top exercise choice for PCOS management. 

Cardio

Cardiovascular activities like running, dancing, swimming, hill climbing, rowing, and biking elevate the heart rate. 

These varying-intensity exercises offer improved cholesterol levels, cognitive function, regulated blood sugar, enhanced sleep quality, and mood elevation.

“Engaging in enjoyable, structured exercises while staying flexible with your fitness plan can significantly aid in PCOS management”

Aster DM Healthcare spokesperson

Strength training

Strength training, utilising weights, resistance bands, or body weight, focuses on muscle development. Like cardio, strength training comes in varying intensities, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Engaging in moderate strength exercises can lead to numerous health advantages, such as improved and reduced blood pressure, enhanced metabolic function, and stronger bones.

Yoga

Yoga involves gentle movements focusing on stretching, balance, and light toning through various poses. 

A concise study on women with PCOS found that practicing yoga for an hour three times weekly led to notable reductions in free testosterone and DHEA levels, along with improvements in anxiety, mood, and menstrual cycle regulation.

Core strength exercises

Strength training using body weight, bands, or weights boosts muscle mass and lowers testosterone levels in women with PCOS. 

Both moderate and vigorous routines improve insulin sensitivity and calorie burning post-exercise, with activities like push-ups and tricep dips being great exercises you can perform anywhere.

HIIT

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates between quick, intense heart-pumping exercises and at least a minute of rest. 

It’s effective for burning fat and lowering insulin resistance. HIIT stimulates extra oxygen use by the body after exercise, known as the after-burn effect, contributing to continued fat burning even when the workout is over.

Describing why exercise is so important, a spokesperson from Aster DM Healthcare gave the following comment:

“Exercise is a key addition for anyone wanting to manage PCOS better. It offers widespread benefits beyond weight loss by boosting insulin sensitivity, reducing diabetes risk, and helping regulate cholesterol and hormone levels, directly impacting PCOS symptoms.  

“Regular activity also increases endorphins, easing depression symptoms and improving sleep quality. 

“Engaging in enjoyable, structured exercises while staying flexible with your fitness plan can significantly aid in PCOS management, emphasising the importance of a holistic regimen for overall health and symptom relief.”

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