The PCOS Fitness Guide: Sample Workout to Calm Your Symptoms
Women with PCOS have heard it before: physical activity is a great way to manage symptoms.
But often times, we lack the actual direction to help us incorporate physical activity into our daily lives. Are we working out correctly for PCOS? What if we’ve never worked out before? Where do we even begin?
How to Workout with PCOS
Let’s be perfectly clear... there is no one-way to incorporate regular movement when you have PCOS. Or when you don’t have PCOS, for that matter! At the end of the day, it’s about moving your body and doing what feels good.
But, having said that, I have assembled a beginner workout for those looking to get their feet wet in the fitness world, without making so big a splash that you never return. Start slowly and do what you can.
The Beginner PCOS Workout – Getting Started
So what makes a workout routine (like the one below) so PCOS-friendly?
- It is designed to work on the large muscle groups as increasing your muscle mass in those areas can also increase metabolism.
- It also incorporates cardio, which is important as it can increase your endorphins (feel good hormones) and help to decrease stress and anxiety.
A woman battling the symptoms of PCOS like insulin resistance, stress, depression, and anxiety can truly benefit from those kinds of perks, am I right?
As with any workout, feel free to customize it! Maybe this is your first time back in the fitness-saddle for a while, or maybe you need something more challenging - here are a few ways you can tailor this workout to you:
- Play with reps! Although the number of suggested reps of the exercise are listed, you should do as many as needed so that the last 5 feel very difficult, like you can barely do them while keeping good form. For some people that will be 20, for some more or less, etc. Or maybe you’re not feeling awesome one day or just need to start a little lighter. Roll back the number of reps and take it slower.
- Add weights or resistance bands. Modifications and safety guidelines are listed below. The first rule of bands: make sure there are no rips or tears. That’s a rubber band sting waiting to happen...
- Rep, Sweat, Repeat! If you want to amp up the intensity, do this workout more than one time through. Try two or three times for a full 20-minute workout.
The Beginner PCOS Workout – The Routine
Warmup for 1 minute (easiest to more difficult): walk in place, walk in place with high knees, jumping jacks.
20 knee hugs (20 on each side), then rest for 20 seconds
20 arm circles, then rest for 20 seconds
20 squats (make sure knee is not in front of foot), then rest for 20 seconds
Add intensity with a resistance band or weights. Make sure you push your booty back, your knees never extend out over your toes, and your chest stays up and open. *If you are using resistance bands or weights, make sure you never lose your form.*
20 high knee twists, then rest for 20 seconds.20 back turns, then rest for 20 seconds.
20 arm circles (the opposite way), then rest for 20 seconds
Use light weights to add intensity. Make sure your shoulders stay square and your tailbone stays in line with your spine.
20 squats, then rest for 20 seconds
20 side bends, rest for 20 seconds.Add a small weight for added intensity. Form should not suffer because of the added weight - keep shoulders back and square. Imagine gliding along a wall.
20 High knee twists
Cooldown for at least 1 minute: stretch and take deep breaths.
How to Stick to a Workout Routine
It’s awesome if you get a chance to work out today.
It would be even better if you worked out again, say, tomorrow, or the next day.
It would be the best if you started a fitness regimen and stuck to it.
Ideally, we would all work out most days during the week. But that’s hard. There are lots of things that can stand in your way, like time, schedules, motivation… So how do we come up with a plan and stick to it? It’s not always the easiest to form this habit!
Some research also that a great way to form a new habit is to link it to an existing one, so that every time you _______, you will _________. Think of something you do every day and combine it with an exercise. For example, when you brush your teeth, you will do a wall sit or squats. While you are waiting for the shower to warm up, you will hold a plank for 20-30 seconds (the last 5 seconds should feel like you want to stop) and do 50 jumping jacks. Think to yourself that you want to ‘earn’ your shower; there is nothing like a shower after a good sweat.
Another tip in creating a more physically active lifestyle is to incorporate a balancing pose (like tree) or a yoga pose into your bedtime routine. Before crawling into bed, take a moment to practice stillness in balance. These postures incorporate a mind-body connection, foster focus, and can help you relax at the end of your day.
Try one of these balancing poses before bed to help your body wind down.
My personal advice for creating a successful habit? Visualize yourself doing the exercises. Visualize yourself as someone who craves some sort of exercise and movement. To make this powerful, use all of your senses. What will you see, smell, hear during a fun, but tough, physical workout? Think of how you will feel afterward: sweaty, accomplished, strong. Music can also be a great motivator. Make a fun playlist! Add songs that you love and only listen to them if you are working out, so that they feel like a reward.
But maybe you’re looking for a distraction? If you are having a particularly unmotivated day, you can do these in front of the TV. Just make sure you don't get so distracted you lose proper form.
The Biggest Exercise Tip for Women with PCOS
Listen to your body, and do what feels good.
If that's running, run. If it's a kickboxing class, kick it! Maybe you need a restorative day, so do some yoga or use a foam roller. It doesn’t matter if it’s Zumba on the Wii, strength training, or spinning... whatever you can keep up in your busy schedule and enjoy doing is exactly what's right for you.
If you're just beginning your workout journey, congratulations! Just starting is the perfect place to begin. Experiment, have fun, and decide what you like and what new physical activities you can incorporate into your life (and enjoy doing).
Exercising when you have PCOS has been shown to improve so many symptoms! Realize that, in time, all your hard work will pay off. The sooner you take control of your physical health and wellness, the sooner you can control your symptoms instead of feeling like PCOS has control over you.
About Monica Moore
As a nurse practitioner, Monica received advanced nursing education in addition to being a registered nurse. She is a fully licensed registered nurse and Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner in the state of Connecticut and is certified by the board of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Monica’s nursing work experience spans nearly two decades in the field of fertility treatment. Monica’s passion lies in taking care of the whole patient. Monica works with patients and stresses the importance of integrating comprehensive care – including yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy and nutrition – with fertility treatment.