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How to Exercise When You Have PCOS


Updated September 29, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Exercise is a crucial component of any healthy lifestyle, especially when you have PCOS. Because you are more prone to certain health complications later in life, like heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high cholesterol/high blood pressure, exercise is especially important to help you stay healthy.

Before jumping in head, or feet, first, there are a few steps you should take to make sure that your exercise plan is appropriate for you.

  • Step 1 – Speak with Your Doctor

    Because women with PCOS are at risk for certain complications, including heart disease and obesity, you should speak with your doctor before starting any new exercise plan. In addition, if you are undergoing treatment for infertility, you must speak with your reproductive endocrinologist prior to starting to exercise. Quite often, RE’s place restrictions on the intensity or type of activity you may do in order to boost your chances for pregnancy and reduce your risk for a potentially serious health condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

  • Step 2 – Start Slow

    Statistically speaking, most women have difficulty sticking with a program that is too intense and requires too much time and energy too soon. Starting slowly is your best strategy for long-lasting change. Focus on adding in a few days of walking each week. Once that habit is established, either lengthen the time that you walk, increase the intensity of the walk or add in some strength training.

  • Step 3 – Add Exercise to Your Schedule

    Aim for 5 days of exercise each week. Make sure to add it to your schedule and make that time non-negotiable. Consider when you can add in 45 minutes to an hour each day that you workout and make sure to keep to that schedule. Some women wake up earlier in the morning or try to fit in a work out on your lunch hour or after work. There is no perfect time, only when you can make it work.

  • Step 4 – Plan Cardio and Strength Training

    When planning your exercise routine, make sure to add time for both cardio and strength training. Some women do a full body weight training day each week; others break it down each day and add it to their cardio routine. For example, arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday, abs on Wednesday, etc… Whichever routine you feel works best for you – and don’t hesitate to switch it up a little until you figure it out – make sure to give your muscles at least a few days of healing before working them out again. Stretching after your workout is a great way to boost your flexibility as well.

    If you can afford it, try seeing a personal trainer for some specific ideas for exercises to do. If not, check out DVD’s for home use or even our Exercise guide at Exercise.about.com for some suggestions. What you do is less important then doing it regularly.

  • Step 5 – Figure out your Motivation

    There will be times when you don’t feel like going to the gym or popping in your DVD, but it’s important to push through those times. Try calling up a friend to work out with. It may even be time to switch up the routine and try something new – team sports or group exercise classes are a great alternative and better motivation (because of the group mentality) then solo gym time or running.

    Try to avoid looking at the scale as well. As you work out, your body will be changing. You will be gaining muscle mass and losing fat tissue, so you may not see any changes in your weight. This can be extremely disheartening, so try to focus on the other benefits – your heart is getting healthier, your blood sugar or cholesterol is lowering, you’re sleeping better, your symptoms of depression are getting better… That is what will keep you motivated, not the number on a scale.

  • Step 6 – Allow for Flexibility

    Life changes and your schedule and workout will need to as well. Don’t hesitate to make changes as you need to accommodate injuries, life changes and your own needs. Stick with living an active lifestyle and do your best to fit in regular cardio and strength training (in whatever form that takes), and above all, enjoy the health that comes with living actively!

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