Exercise & Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Today, Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain and Neutral Bay  discuss the effect of Exercise in treating and managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).


What is PCOS?

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive disorder associated with metabolic dysfunction and affects 8-13% of women.”

Polycystic translates as ‘many cysts’. In PCOS, there are many partially formed follicles on the ovaries, each containing an egg although these rarely grow to maturity or produce eggs with the potential to be fertilised (Better Health Channel, 2019).

In women with PCOS, they typically have high levels of insulin that is inefficient or male hormones called ‘androgens’ or both. The cause is not fully understood, although family history and genetics, hormones & lifestyle factors contribute.

4 out of 5 women with PCOS experience Insulin resistance which is when cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t respond effectively to insulin and are unable to utilise glucose in the blood for energy (WebMD, 2021). Weight loss has been proven to be extremely effective in treating PCOS as obesity exacerbates the severity of symptoms (Patten, et al., 2020).


It is recommended that women affected by PCOS engage in a combination of aerobic and strength exercise of intensity or 30-60min per day.


A diagnosis of PCOS must include two out of three of the following:

  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Acne, excess facial or body hair growth, scalp hair loss or high levels of androgens in the blood
  • Polycystic ovaries visible on an ultrasound

Symptoms may include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Amenorrhoea (no periods)
  • Excessive facial or body hair growth (or both)
  • Acne
  • Scalp hair loss
  • Reduced fertility
  • May experience anxiety and depression
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnoea

PCOS is associated with long-term health risks such as:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes
  • Cholesterol and blood fat abnormalities
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Endometrial cancer

PCOS & Exercise

“Any exercise or activity that is enjoyable is recommended as this is likely to be most sustainable in the long term.”

Exercise is well-established as a therapy for preventing and managing chronic diseases in women with PCOS & the general population. Exercise & diet have been recommended as the first line of therapy to improve general health, hormonal outcomes, and quality of life.

Women who want to maintain health and an ideal weight should aim for:

150 mins per week of moderate intensity activity OR 75 mins per week of vigorous activity  OR A combination of both  

Include weight training 2 x per week on non-consecutive days

Women who need to improve health and lose weight should aim for:

300 mins per week of moderate intensity activity OR 150mins per week of vigorous activity OR  A combination of both

Include weight training 2 x per week on non-consecutive days

 (Exercise is Medicine, 2020)

Types of exercise:

There are many different types of exercise that can each help target the various symptoms of PCOS.


Cardio training is great for reducing insulin resistance, improving fertility, and stabilising mood.

Moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming are great activities to help increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin. 30 mins of cardio, daily can help promote weight management, reducing cardiovascular risk, improve symptoms of depression & anxiety, and enhance regularity of menstrual cycles and ovulation.


Strength training is great for reducing insulin resistance, increasing metabolic rate, that is, burning more calories at rest and during activity and improving body composition by building more muscle mass.

Through combining strength and cardio exercise, it will reap the best benefits to ensure you are building a lean body and achieving a healthy weight whilst reducing risk of developing chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes.







Intervals that swap between short bouts of high intensity work and lower intensity recovery are great for increasing cardiovascular fitness and decreasing waist circumference, lowering cardiovascular risk.

Vigorous intensity exercise has been shown to have the greatest improvements in health outcomes such as waist circumference, body mass index (BMI) and aerobic fitness.

HIIT burns a high level of calories and reduces abdominal fat more effectively than moderate intensity exercise. Studies have shown that a 5-10% weight loss can help decrease PCOS symptoms by reducing excess testosterone and improving insulin resistance (King, 2021).


Watch the video below for more information about Exercise & PCOS:

If you want an individualised exercise program to treat and manage your PCOS, call Longevity Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista, and Neutral Bay on 1300 964 002 to book in a session today!


Written by Ellen Spencer



Better Health Channel. (2019, November 25). Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Retrieved from Better Health Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos

Exercise is Medicine. (2020, October ). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Exercise. Retrieved from Exercise is Medicine: http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/EIM-fact-sheet_PCOS_Professional.pdf

King, S. (2021, Dec 19). The Best Types of Exercise for PCOS. Retrieved from Exercise Right: https://exerciseright.com.au/best-types-exercise-pcos/#:~:text=Moderate%20exercise%20like%20brisk%20walking,disease%20and%20type%202%20diabetes.

Patten, R. K., Boyle, R. A., Moholdt, T., Kiel, I., Hopkins, W. G., Harrison, C. L., & Stepto, N. K. (2020). Exercise Interventions in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. frontiers in Physiology .

WebMD. (2021, June 23). Insulin Resistance. Retrieved from WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/insulin-resistance-syndrome#:~:text=Insulin%20resistance%20is%20when%20cells,blood%20sugar%20levels%20go%20up.

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