Exercise and PCOS

Although it is important for all of us to get enough sleep, exercise regularly and manage stress, these factors can also be a vital part in the treatment of PCOS. Exercise, in fact, is recommended as a part of the lifestyle changes aimed at normalising body weight. Studies have shown that moderate intensity exercise for 12-24 weeks have been linked with approx. 10 per cent of weight loss, reduced insulin resistance and regular menstrual cycles (1). Guidelines, worldwide, also recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity for 5 days per week, in addition to strengthening exercises at least 2 days per week for managing PCOS. Let’s delve into science to understand the importance of these guidelines…

10 – 30 per cent of your metabolism is governed by activity energy expenditure – calories burned through activity. It comprises of intentional physical activity through exercise and NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). First, exercise or intentional activity should be ‘the way of life – not by the way’. It is important to include some form of moderate intensity activity irrespective of your age or size. It is the cure-all or the anti-ageing elixir which is free! All you need is some motivation and, sometimes, good company. 

The second component—called NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) of your metabolism—that accounts for all movement that isn’t intentional includes actions like fidgeting, walking, maintaining posture etc. It is the most variable component of your metabolism. For example, a study found no difference in the resting metabolic rate between lean and obese women, but an almost 400-calorie difference in levels of NEAT between the two groups (2). Even though exercise is necessary, it accounts for only 4 per cent approximately of your weekly time (4-5 hours), leaving scope to increase your NEAT through the rest 96 per cent of your weekly time—this could potentially result in the expendicture of thousands of additional calories. 

The emphasis should be on interspersing your day with exercise as well as frequent movent be it sitting with standing, taking frequent breaks to walk and move or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. During an eight-hour workday, all of these small, seemingly inconsequential movements, could lead to hundreds of additional calories being burned. 

The last important aspect of any lifestyle change includes adequate sleep. I cannot emphasise the importance of this enough! Poor quality sleep can worsen mood and immunity, and has been associated with higher risk of metabolic issues including obesity and diabetes (3). Optimal sleep includes 7-8 hours with good sleep hygiene—relaxing before bed, limiting the use of electronic gadgets 30 mins before bed time and eating 2-3 hours before going to bed. 


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