Are you someone or do you know someone that suffers from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? Well, I recently went over the current literature to find out if exercise can be used as a tool to help treat PCOS in women.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that is characterized by menstrual irregularity (irregular periods) and elevated serum androgens and is often accompanied by insulin resistance (in some cases followed with the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes ). The etiology of PCOS is unknown. Lifestyle interventions and weight loss, where appropriate, remain first-line treatments for women with PCOS. Regular physical activity is recommended for women with PCOS to maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness, but how effective is it really?
PCOS is characterized by hyperandrogenism ( is a medical condition characterized by high levels of androgens in females. Symptoms may include acne, seborrhea (inflamed skin), hair loss on the scalp, increased body or facial hair, and infrequent or absent menstruation. and oligo-ovulation or anovulation, resulting in acne, hirsutism, male-pattern hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles, and potential subfertility. PCOS impacts cardiometabolic and psychological health across the lifespan with the added risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and have a greater risk of developing anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, etc.
Upon meeting a PCOS patient, the most common first form of treatment for managing PCOS symptoms is weight loss by incorporating exercise-induced lifestyle changes, where appropriate, coupled with a healthy, well-balanced diet. A "healthy, well-balanced diet" for treating PCOS includes < or =30% of kcal in the diet coming from fat, but otherwise a diet rich in variety. As the literature displayed, a diet high in low-GI foods leads to dyslipidemia and weight gain while also stimulating hunger and carbohydrate craving long-term. Therefore when determining a dietary or physical activity intervention for someone with PCOS it should be customized for each individual, tailored to the individual's needs, preferences, and with any and all dietary/accessibility restrictions in mind. Calorie intake should be distributed between several meals per day with low intake from snacks and drinks.
According to the Review exercises that promote muscle growth, particularly of glycolytic, fast-twitch muscle fibers, may result in the utilization of T (testosterone) and lower the levels in the blood. This and other mechanisms may be responsible for these improvements and warrant further investigation. Aerobic exercise is unlikely to impact androgens, although closely monitored exercise and/or long-term incorporation of aerobic exercise may provide some benefit. Vigorous aerobic exercise improves insulin measures in women with PCOS. There is limited data on which suggests improvements in multiple androgens with 12 weeks of aquatic HIIT are intriguing and warrant further investigation. This means that for optimal treatment using nutrition and exercise, one should expect to eat a diet composing of less than or equal to 30% fat, high in protein, and other satiating foods, (such as fiber). Ensuring calories are guided towards improved insulin sensitivity (accompanied by a likely loss of body fat %) is recommended for patients with PCOS. To conclude, PCOS patients are not always markedly overweight but PCOS is strongly associated with increased abdominal fat mass or obesity and insulin resistance. Effective approaches to nutrition and exercise improve endocrine features, reproductive function, and cardiometabolic risk profile--even without marked weight loss. Calorie intake should be distributed between several meals per day with low caloric intake coming from snacks and beverages. The use of drugs to either improve insulin sensitivity or to promote weight loss is justified as a short-term measure and is most likely to be beneficial when used in combination with diet and exercise. In order to help manage symptoms make sure if we support those, we know with a PCOS diagnosis, to get active daily, whether with moderate to heavy aerobic exercise, resistance training, or some combination of the two. To further improve the status, look at addressing caloric intake and manage such that the individual is not maintaining a state of caloric surplus.
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TLDR; Recommended guidelines for women with PCOS include vigorous aerobic exercise and resistance training to improve measures of insulin sensitivity and androgen levels.