Lifestyle & Fitness

Lifestyle & fitness play a vital role in a persons health. For women with PCOS this is increased and certain changes to lifestyle will help with PCOS symptoms.

Beauty & Appearance

Many of the symptoms of PCOS can affect appearance. It is important to retain a sense of attractiveness for overall well-being. Negative feelings about our appearance can at best, leave us feeling deflated. The media is constantly bombarding us with “perfect” images of flawless females and this can be extremely difficult for women & girls. This can be even more frustrating for those with PCOS symptoms.

While it is important to feel good about ourselves appearance is not everything. The PCOS Help Centre understands that appearance is important for confidence which in turn can promote a healthier way of life.

Long term, many of the symptoms of PCOS can be alleviated by following a strict diet & lifetyle as outlined on our diet & lifetyle pages. In the short term however, cosmetics play an important role in maintaining our appearance.

Exercise

Weight loss is a vital component in health and wellbeing and serves as a healing factor in many diseases. For women with polycystic ovary syndrome, exercise has been the major recommendation offered by health practioners for symtom relief. Positive results have been obtained through lifestyle changes such as reducing stress, improving diet & exercise

Exercise helps increase insulin sensitivity of your cells, which allow you to use glucose more efficiently. As a result, it can help reverse the symptoms of Insulin Resistance and PCOS as well as enhance long-term weight-loss.

Exercise also plays an important role in reducing weight by lowering insulin levels and creating calorie-burning muscle. This increases your metabolic rate even while you are not exercising.

Patients with PCOS are more likely to suffer from diabetes. The good news is that it has been shown that a decrease of only 5% of a woman’s total body weight may help decrease insulin levels which helps to make diabetes much more controllable. Weight loss also lowers the risk of heart disease.

Women can reduce the symptoms of PCOS with regular exercise!

Benefits thought to result from regular exercise:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduce blood cholesterol & pressure
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Improve sense of well-being
  • Increased physical and emotional stamina
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy levels

Aerobic exercise, which involves continuous activity, increases endurance and helps your body use oxygen more effectively. Your lungs work harder to bring in more oxygen and your heart pumps harder to send blood to the muscles. This process strengthens your lungs, heart, bones, and muscles.

Other types of exercise, such as weight lifting and stretching, can improve muscle strength & flexibility. Such exercise improves endurance, dexterity, & balance.

Exercises performed at low and moderate intensity will help you stay fit and healthy. You do not need to exercise strenuously to improve your health. For example, regular, moderate activity, such as three 10-minute walks a day, reduces your risk of death from cardiovascular disease by as much as 60%.

With your health care provider’s approval, your goal should be 30 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise a day, most days of the week. You may need to exercise 60 minutes a day to prevent weight gain and 90 minutes a day to lose weight. Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting your exercise program. 

Sleep

Women face a host of health issues when they lack proper sleep. Heart problems, weight issues and stress have all been associated with inadequate and/or irregular sleep habits. Additionally, women are more likely than men to have difficulty falling and staying asleep and to experience more daytime sleepiness. The rise and fall of hormone levels each month – and especially the major changes that occur during pregnancy and menopause – can create special sleep problems for females. Many women get too little sleep as a result of busy, stressful lives.

Fortunately, there are a number of approaches women can use to improve their sleep, including regular exercise, establishing regular bed and wake times, dietary changes, and improving the sleep environment. 

Stop Smoking

Smoking is seriously detrimental to your health. If you are a smoker you must make an effort to try and stop.

Smoking reduces ovarian function & may trigger menopause at least two years earlier than normal. Smoking also increases your risk of coronary heart disease.

Women who smoke have higher androgen levels which may contribute to PCOS symptoms.

As we are becoming more aware of the extensive health risks linked to smoking there are an increasing number of resources becoming available in order to help you quit.

As with any addiction, quitting may prove to be difficult however, people are here to help you achieve your goal.

Make a Promise

Making a promise to family and friends may help you to stick with your goal & provide you with the motivation you need. To take the first step & make a promise.

How addicted am I?

An understanding of your addiction is paramount in preparing you for a successful smoke free life. To find out how dependent you are on nicotine click here.

How much do I spend on Cigarettes?

Knowing how much you spend on cigarettes may give you motivation to quit. An average smoker in Britain burns 91,832.43 pounds on cigarettes in their lifetime.  That is 373,302 cigarettes, or 18,665 packs per smoker. To find out how much money you are spending on cigarettes click here. 

Weight Loss

Obesity or persistent weight gain is a common feature of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Many women find it almost impossible to lose weight, even when on a strict diet.

This is a very difficult area for overweight women with PCOS who are constantly told by their care providers that they must lose weight. The very disease that is worsened by the excess weight conspires against them in this quest, making weight loss more difficult than usual. There is no one-shot, sure fire answer and the key is a combination of strict calorie reduction combined with aerobic exercise as part of a supervised programme.

Many women with PCOS find that they have issues with their weight. In fact, 50% to 60% of women with PCOS are considered to be obese, making weight loss an important issue for these women. However, because of PCOS, regular weight loss plans, particularly those that promise fast weight loss, may not be effective.

Weight loss is necessary for those women that are suffering from PCOS and are overweight or obese. Being obese has been linked to an increased risk of numerous health problems including:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular periods
  • Heart Disease
  • High cholesterol

Sadly, obese women with PCOS are seven times more likely to develop diabetes or heart disease. Why? Because of insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance causes your LDL and triglyceride levels (“bad” cholesterol) to increase, while decreasing your levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol). And since women with PCOS and insulin resistance already have a hard time with insulin production, the likelihood of developing diabetes is significantly increased. Furthermore, insulin resistance can contribute to weight gain and make losing weight difficult, which can be very frustrating for PCOS sufferers.

How Losing Weight Helps

By losing weight, through diet and exercise, women affected by PCOS are more likely to have:

  • Regular periods
  • More ovulatory cycles
  • Reduced hairiness
  • Stabilized hormone levels
  • Reduced risk of heart disease

Weight loss will contribute to lowering insulin levels. Because high insulin levels have been found to contribute significantly to the many PCOS symptoms, reducing your insulin levels should result in an improvement in acne and hirsutism as well as decrease your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Because weight loss has shown to have such a significant affect on the symptoms of PCOS, experts are now recommending that following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise be used as a first line treatment. However, in some cases, drugs like Metformin may still be prescribed.

Start Small

Although reducing your weight to fall into a “normal” or “average” category may be a long-term goal, it is not always necessary to lose a significant amount of weight before you notice an improvement in your PCOS symptoms. Studies have shown that losing between 5% and 10% of your body weight is often enough to ease the symptoms of PCOS. But how do you lose that weight?

Carbohydrates are often linked to high insulin levels and as such women with PCOS are typically recommended to follow a low glycemic index diet. Foods in this type of diet do not cause a quick rise and fall in blood sugar levels and therefore help to prevent elevated insulin levels. Since carbohydrates are the main culprit behind rising insulin levels, many women may be tempted to cut out carbs from their diet or follow a low carb diet, such as the Atkins diet. This is not necessary, though, and may not even be healthy as these diet sometimes contain too much saturated fat, which has been linked to heart disease.

There is nothing wrong with having carbohydrates in your diet so long as they are the right kind of carbs. Instead of choosing starchy, processed carbs, which contribute to high insulin levels causing your blood sugar to remain low while you crave more carbs, opt for whole grain carbohydrates. Because they have more fibre in them, they take longer for your body to turn into sugar and therefore have a low gylcemic index.

How Many Carbs?

It is difficult to say precisely what is the right proportion of carbohydrates for women with PCOS as each woman is different and has their own dietary needs. Some experts, however, suggest that women that are overweight and affected by PCOS try reducing their daily carbohydrates intake to 40% of their diet. If no changes are noticed, then try reducing your daily carb intake a little more until you detect an improvement. Reducing your carbohydrate intake may casue the following changes:

  • You have more energy
  • You have fewer cravings
  • You notice some weight loss
  • Your insulin levels are lower
  • Your periods become more regular

Your carbohydrate intake is not the only thing to be concerned about when it comes to losing weight, though. You will also need to be careful of the amount of calories you consume. Consuming too many calories will result in weight gain, regardless of whether the calories come from a fat, carbohydrate or protein source. Additionally, try to eat your carbs with protein or fat and avoid consuming all of your carbs at one time, which can lead to a spike in your insulin levels rather than gradually rising over the course of the day.

Don’t Forget To Exercise

While a change in your diet can ease your PCOS symptoms and help you lose weight, you are likely to notice more improvement if you combine your healthy diet with regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to aid in weight loss by helping you burn more calories as well as lowering your blood pressure and increasing your HDL levels. Aim to engage in some form of aerobic exercise at least three times a week.

In addition to aerobic exercise, weight training is also recommended. Although many women shy away from weight training for fear of bulking up, exercising with low weights and doing higher repetitions of an exercise will actually help tone your muscles. Better yet, because muscles burn more calories than fat, building up your muscle will help you burn more calories throughout the day, even while you are resting. Furthermore, weight training helps to build up bone density, which can prevent osteoporosis later on.