We all have heard the numerous benefits touted for exercising regularly. And we are likely all familiar with the various different types of movement. From yoga, to Cross Fit, to Tae Kwon Do, to High Intensity Interval Training (HITT), there are thousands of variations of activities we can partake in to meet our physical activity goals.  There are also the overall categories we can take into account: cardiovascular, strength, and stretching. Each type of exercise has various benefits. Specifically speaking of PCOS, there are certain types of activities that will affect your blood sugars control and management of symptoms better than others. 

  1. Choose High Intensity Training

When it comes to PCOS management and physical activity, intensity matters. A study in 2015 found that High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) showed positive effects on blood glucose control, despite any associated weight changes, in women. This study also showed improved body compositions in these women with decreased fat mass percentages, despite having no weight loss. Another study out of the University of California San Francisco, showed that women who participated in more intense exercise had an overall lower BMI, higher HDL (good) cholesterol, and higher amounts of sex hormone-binding globulin. Those women also had a reduced risk for metabolic syndrome. In fact, this study found that for every hour of vigorous exercise participated in a woman’s odds of metabolic syndrome reduce by 22%. All signs point to the higher the intensity of exercise routinely participated in, the more effective it is in managing PCOS and preventing further complications. (1, 2)

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2. Limit the Cardio

A large part of PCOS management is blood glucose stabilization and cardiovascular exercise can play a role in that. Our bodies have a natural blood sugar and insulin flow throughout each day, which effects our hormone levels. Excess cardiovascular (cardio) exercises can increase that hormone response, raising androgen levels and exacerbating symptoms associated with the condition. Excessive cardiovascular exercise may also lead to an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone, which then leads to an increase in insulin and blood sugar. Avoiding excess cardio during stressful times can help limit that cortisol response when it is already likely elevated. Keep cardio to a limit of no more than four times per week for up to one hour at a time and be sure to balance it with other types of exercise. 

3. Add some Yoga!

Speaking of stress, keeping cortisol levels at bay to prevent that dreaded insulin increase is crucial for management. A common technique for stress management is mindfulness practice, including yoga. Yoga has been shown to decrease stress hormones and help balance day-to-day stresses more effectively. Yoga may also have benefits beyond just stress reduction when it comes to PCOS management. In study from 2013 found that after a group of women adolescents practiced yoga for one hour for 12 weeks had improved endocrine levels, testosterone, and menstrual frequency. Doing yoga at least three time per week, for even 10 minutes can have lasting benefits!(3-5)

4. Just get moving!

Of course it’s important to keep in mind that any movement is better than no movement! No matter if that movement is dancing in the kitchen or walking your beloved pup through the park, having fun moving in ways that you love and find enjoyment in is so important! Any type of movement will help with PCOS management and insulin management, it’s important to remember that anything in excess can do harm and to balance cardio with strength and some relaxation too!


  1. Effects of High Intensity Interval Training and Strength Training on Metabolic, Cardiovascular and Hormonal Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Almenning, et al. 

  2. Vigorous exercise is associated with superior metabolic profiles in polycystic ovary syndrome independent of total exercise expenditure. Greenwood, et al. 

  3. Nidhi, R, Nagarathna, R., Padmalatha, V., & Amritanshu, R. (2012). Effect of holistic yoga program on anxiety symptoms in adolescent girls with polycystic ovarian syndrome: A randomized control trial. International Journal of Yoga, 5(2), 112-117. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.98223

  4. Nidhi, R., Padmalatha, V., Nagarathna, R., & Ram, A. (2012). Effect of a yoga program on glucose metabolism and blood lipid levels in adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 118(1), 37-41. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.01.027

  5. Nidhi, R., Padmalatha, V., Nagarathna, R., & Amritanshu, R. (2013). Effects of a Holistic Yoga Program on Endocrine Parameters in Adolescents with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(2), 153-160. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0868

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