Hello Cyster! Welcome to my blog!
In this post, you’re going to learn all about exercise and PCOS – the benefits, what types of exercise are the most beneficial for you, as well as some precautions that you might want to consider.
Benefits of Exercise for Women with PCOS
Moving your body comes with plenty of benefits. Exercise can help increase your metabolic rate, for example. If you exercise and grow your muscles, the number of your mitochondria, which are little green powerhouses located inside each cell of your body and which are responsible for energy production, increases, leading to higher energy levels and a greater basal metabolic rate (BMR) – meaning that you’re going to burn more calories. What a fun way to lose weight!
Another benefit, that happens on a cellular level, is that the number of insulin receptors, which are part of the cell membranes of the liver, muscle and fat cells, grows, and that way, you’re becoming more sensitive to insulin, thus the amount of glucose in your blood stream decreases and exercise can help improve insulin resistance over time.
Exercise has also proven to lift your mood. Studies show that going for a daily walk can also help with depression.
Then, exercise can support the detoxification process of the body, because when we exercise, we usually sweat, which flushes out toxins from our bodies. It also helps increase bowel movements, thus further stimulating the removal of harmful substances from the body and improving gut health. Breathing is another pathway, through which our body removes toxins from the body.
The Best Types of Exercise for Women with PCOS
After hearing about all these benefits, I guess you’re very motivated right now to go back to your exercise routine or ready to start exercising, right?
So, let’s have a closer look at what types of exercise are best for PCOS. Usually we differentiate between cardio exercise, where you get your heart rate up and start sweating, and strength training or resistance training, which refers to building muscle and toning your body. Both types of exercise are beneficial if they’re done the right way.
You can do any type of cardio training, like going for walks or even running, attend group classes like aerobics or Zumba, swimming, cycling or – if you like to go to the gym – you can use the treadmill, cross-trainer, the bike – that is perfectly fine. The main point to consider here is to do whatever feels good for you and does not leave you feeling exhausted at the end of your workout and the hours after. You don’t want to push your limits too hard, because you don’t want to increase stress on your body.
So, if you do cardio, do it in a way that’s right for your body. So maybe start with 15 to 30 minutes and watch your heart rate. You can calculate your maximum heart rate online, which depends on your age. Try not to go over that, unless you do HIIT training, where you do shorter intervals of high intensity. HIIT Training (High Intensity Interval Training) can help increase your stamina over time. It also helps burn more calories in a more efficient way.
If you feel tired or exhausted after a workout and it drains your energy, then you might be overdoing it and that’s what we want to avoid. Since stress can increase insulin resistance and inflammation in the body. Personally, I love going to the gym and running. I usually feel good during my workouts at the gym, but I have noticed when I’m pushing my body too hard in times of stress, I just feel burned out and depressed after an intense workout, so, I would usually do less intense workouts and increase my stretching time during those periods of exhaustion.
Let’s have a closer look at strength training now. It basically means that you increase the muscles of your body. Increasing the size of the leg muscles has been proven to be very beneficial for PCOS. One reason is them being among the largest muscles inside our body. As you build up your muscles you will increase in the number of mitochondria inside your cells and also the number of your insulin receptors around your cells will grow.
Slower, restorative exercises like yoga or tai chi, for example, which are more focused on toning, stretching, stress management and breath work are very beneficial for women with PCOS in general and might be a great option, if you struggle with fatigue, low energy, increased levels of stress or have been diagnosed with an adrenal disease.
To recap, rule number one is to do whatever makes you feel good. You don’t want to exercise too much. Spending three hours at the gym doing cardio burning 1000 calories and pushing really hard to accomplish that, would be counterproductive. Furthermore, running marathons can put a lot of stress on your body too and can even cause missing or absent periods in women who don’t struggle with PCOS.
3 Great Tips for Your PCOS-friendly Workout
Next, I’m going to share some extra tips with you. Eating a small amount of carbs before you exercise might be beneficial in many ways. The extra carbs might help you reduce the stress you are putting on your body when exercising and you could get some extra nutrients from foods like oats or fruits that you usually wouldn’t eat often. You could have a nut-oat bar or a banana, for example. Those extra carbs will get burned quickly, once you start moving your body, since exercise, especially cardio, will help push the glucose into the cells. If you feel like exercise doesn’t stress you out and you prefer burning fat and losing weight, exercising before breakfast or 3 to 4 hours after your last meal might help you reach your goal.
My next tip for you would be to eat protein after your workout. I would recommend plant based protein if you use any protein powder because it affects insulin differently than whey protein, which can spike insulin levels, what we want to avoid. You can also have a piece of fish or chicken. Protein is necessary to build up your muscles. No protein – no growth in muscle size.
And here’s my last tip: I don’t know about you, but after the gym I usually get really hungry. So after exercise- and I’m speaking from experience here – you want to have a high protein snack ready, so you don’t stop by at McDonald’s on the way home, right? Have something ready – whether it be a protein shake, or protein rich snack, something you can eat after the gym.
My question for you today is: What kind of exercise do you do? What kind of exercise do you want to do? Let me know in the comments below. Either keep doing what you’re doing, modify your workouts a little bit or try to really give some thought to what kind of exercises you could do. Do some research to see what’s available in your area or online. Start exercising regularly. You can start by exercising once or twice a week and then gradually increase the length and the frequency of your workouts.
Wishing you all the best on your journey.