What is the best exercise for PCOS?

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You’ve probably heard of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) before, and it’s likely that someone you know may have it. It affects 8-13% of women of reproductive age, and up to 70% of women with PCOS in the community remain undiagnosed (1,2). That’s a lot of people who may not be receiving relevant help.

A diagnosis of PCOS is based on a range of criteria, which can be assessed and determined by your GP. If you have any of these common symptoms or questions about PCOS diagnosis, have a chat with your GP. PCOS can be experienced differently from person to person and across all ages. It has a combination of reproductive, metabolic and psychological features (1-3).

Some of the symptoms can include (1-3):

·     Irregular or absent menstrual cycles

·     Hirtuism and/ or alopecia

·     Acne

·     Weight management challenges

·     Infertility

·     Insulin resistance and increased risk of diabetes

·     Cardiovascular risk factors

·     Depression and/ or anxiety

·     Poor body image

·     Reduced health related quality of life


The cause is unclear, but it is believed to have genetic and environmental contributors that include obesity, ovarian dysfunction and hormonal components (1,3).


So that leaves us with the big question – how do we treat or manage it? 

Well, this is a good but challenging question as it presents differently depending on the person, and can be made up of a combination of different components. Treatment may not be the same for everyone. It is important to discuss this with your GP to determine the most appropriate approach for you.

As an Exercise Physiologist, it seems fitting to focus on lifestyle and activity recommendations based on the most recent research.

Engaging in regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet are considered the most effective lifestyle factors for reducing the severity of some PCOS symptoms(1).

Some benefits of regular physical activity include improved (1-2):

·     Insulin action (reduced risk of diabetes)

·     Emotional wellbeing and psychological health

·     Motivation and self-confidence

·     Energy levels

·     Period regularity

·     Fertility

·     Improved fitness and strength


These improvements are achieved even when weight loss doesn’t occur (1), which means it is important to focus on other factors, not just weight, when addressing PCOS.


But what is THE BEST exercise for PCOS you ask? Keep reading for some information taken from the most current research.


Currently, there is no specific exercise prescription that is clearly more effective than any other. As much as this may be frustrating, research has shown that ANY type of REGULAR exercise is effective in improving PCOS symptoms (1). This means that you can decide to pick an activity that is more enjoyable and meaningful to you.


General recommendations (1-3) include aiming to achieve the National Physical Activity Guidelines, which are:

·     At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week plus

·     At least two resistance training sessions per week


This can look like a brisk walk around the Marby river, or some kickboxing sessions at your local gym. Maybe dance classes are your thing. Exercise with a professional to start some weight training perhaps. The options are endless and YOU get to decide.


When deciding on the type of exercise you want to pursue, there are a few important factors to consider (1).

1.    Aim to achieve the National Physical Activity Guidelines

2.    Pick something you are interested in, enjoy, or that is meaningful to you

3.    Address barriers to exercise so that you are more likely to stay motivated and consistent


If you are new to exercise and don’t know where to start, or are overwhelmed with options, reach out. Our allied health team can get you started and help lead you in the right direction.



1.    Teede, H., Misso, M., Costello,M., Dokras, A., Laven, J., Moran, L., Piltonen, T., Norman, R. 2018. International evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycysticovary syndrome 2018. Melbourne Australia, Australian Government, pp. 1-198.

2.    Boyle, J., Teede, HJ. 2012. Polycystic ovary syndrome: an update. Australian Family Physician, 41(10), pp. 752-756.

3.    Teede, HJ., Misso, ML., Moran,DJ., Wong, JLA., Costello, MF. 2011. Assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome: summary of an evidence-based guideline. MJA, 195(6), pp. 565-5112.

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