The Best Exercises for PCOS

There’s no question that regular physical activity is essential for people who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Consistent exercise helps with weight management, improves mood, can help with fertility, and lowers disease risk, along with numerous other health benefits.

Sometimes, people with PCOS avoid exercising or trying new activities out of fear. Perhaps they feel their size limits them from doing certain exercises or they feel too out of shape. Body image issues can hold people back as some don’t want to be seen exercising. But fear should not outweigh the benefits of moving your body.

Person in athletic gear walking outside
Salomé Fresco Barbeito / Moment Mobile / Getty Images

If you’re ready to start moving your body for the enjoyment and health benefits or if you’re already a regular exerciser and want to push your body more, here are some great, fun exercises for people with PCOS to do.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend Americans get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity in addition to two days of resistance training each week for weight management. These guidelines were affirmed in evidence-based guidelines for the management of PCOS.

As a general goal, aim for 30 minutes of activity each day. But relax, it doesn’t have to be done all at once. Two 15-minute increments of physical activity equal the same amount as doing the activity for one 30 minute stretch.

The same is true for three 10-minute increments of brief activity. Just be sure to get your heart rate up and maintained at 64% to 76% of your maximum rate.

Take It in Stride

Walking is one of the best activities for PCOS because it can be done anywhere and only requires walking shoes. If you don’t enjoy the solitude of walking alone, turn on music or ask a friend to join you.

Power up your walking routine by adding intervals: Alternate walking 5 minutes at a moderate pace and then 5 minutes of fast-paced walking or jogging. Vary your route from time to time to one that includes both hills and flat surfaces. 

Pump It Up

People with PCOS can build muscle quickly, good news if you're trying to burn extra calories. Use this to your advantage by lifting weights twice a week.

Not sure where to start? Set up a session with one of the trainers at your gym for an introductory instruction session (some gyms will happily do this free of charge as part of your membership).

In addition, consider meeting with a trainer every month or so to change up your routine. The popular Les Mills Bodypump is a class offered at most gyms across the U.S. and includes an hour of group weight training to music that works the whole body.

Get Wet

Pool workouts such as swimming and aqua aerobics or Zumba are great activities for women with PCOS to do. These exercises use resistance to work the entire body and are easy on the joints. If you're swimming laps, push yourself by setting distance or speed goals.

Want more of a challenge? Try stand-up paddleboarding also known as SUP. This outdoor water sport tightens and tones the whole body while building balance. Kayaking works the upper body and core muscles and is another great way to stay fit in the water.

Take a Swing

Bored with your everyday exercise? Challenge your body by learning or practicing a sport. For example, join a weekly tennis clinic (indoors or outside) at your level. Always wanted to learn how to golf? Sign up for lessons. Not only will you get exercise but meet some new friends in the process.

8 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.
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  2. Ouyang Y, Wang K, Zhang T, Peng L, Song G, Luo J. The influence of sports participation on body image, self-efficacy, and self-esteem in college students. Front Psychol. 2020;10:3039. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03039

  3. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?

  4. Teede HJ, Misso ML, Costello MF, et al. Recommendations from the international evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Hum Reprod. 2018;33(9):1602–1618. doi:10.1093/humrep/dey256

  5. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate.

  6. Kite, C., Lahart, I.M., Afzal, I. et al. Exercise, or exercise and diet for the management of polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Syst Rev 8, 51 (2019). doi: 10.1186/s13643-019-0962-3

  7. Pericleous P, Stephanides S. Can resistance training improve the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome? BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. 2018;4(1):e000372. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000372

  8. Harrison CL, Hirschberg AL, Moholdt T. Editorial: exercise and sport: their influences on women’s health across the lifespan. Front Physiol. 2021;11:615468. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.615468

By Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN
 Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN, is the founder of the PCOS Nutrition Center.