How to Exercise When You Have PCOS

Exercise is a crucial component of any healthy lifestyle, especially for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS puts you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, making exercise extra important to help you stay healthy. Here's what you need to know before getting started.

Woman jogging in park

Idea Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

If you have health issues like uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, or another significant health issue, speak to your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise plan so that you can be cleared to start and develop a safe workout plan.

If you are undergoing fertility treatments, you should also speak with your reproductive endocrinologist (RE) prior to starting to exercise.

REs often place restrictions on the intensity or type of activity you should do to reduce your risk for a potentially serious health complication known as ovarian torsion and to boost your chances for a successful pregnancy.

Start Slow

Statistically speaking, most women have difficulty sticking with a program that is too intense and requires too much time and energy too soon. Starting slowly is your best strategy for long-lasting change.

Focus on adding in a few days of walking each week. Once that habit is established, either lengthen the time that you walk, increase the intensity of the walk or add in some strength training.

Schedule Time to Exercise

Aim for five days of exercise each week. Make sure to add it to your schedule and make that time non-negotiable.

Review your schedule to determine when you can add a 45-minute to an hour block to work out. If you can't find that much time, you can break it up throughout the day, or schedule a smaller block - because something is better than nothing.

Some women wake up earlier in the morning to work out or try to fit it in during a lunch hour or after work. There is no perfect time to exercise, only when you can make it work consistently.

Plan Cardio and Strength Training

When setting your schedule, be sure to include time for both cardio and strength training. Some women do a full bodyweight training day each week; others break it down each day and add it to their cardio routine.

For example, arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday, abs on Wednesday, etc. Choose whichever routine you feel works best for you and don’t hesitate to switch it up a little until you figure it out.

Make sure to give your muscles at least a few days of healing before working them out again. Stretching after your workout is a great way to boost your flexibility as well. What you do is less important than doing it regularly.

Figure Out Your Motivation

There will be times when you don’t feel like exercising, but it’s important to push through those times. Try calling up a friend to work out with. It may even be time to switch up the routine and try something new.

Team sports or group exercise classes are a great alternative and can provide better motivation because of the group mentality than solo gym time or running.

Also, try to avoid the scale. As you work out, your body will be changing. You'll gain muscle mass and lose fat tissue, so you may not see any changes in your weight. This can be extremely disheartening.

Instead, try to focus on the other benefits: your heart is getting healthier, your blood sugar or cholesterol is lowering, you’re sleeping better, your symptoms of depression are getting better. That is what will keep you motivated for the long term, not the number on a scale.

Allow for Flexibility

Life changes and your schedule and workout will need to as well. Don’t hesitate to make changes as you need to accommodate injuries, life changes, and your own needs.

Stick with living an active lifestyle and do your best to fit in regular cardio and strength training (in whatever form that takes), and above all, enjoy the health that comes with living actively!

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and diabetes.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of regular physical activity among adults--United States, 2001 and 2005. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 56(46):1209-12.

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."