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PCOS and Diabetes: How Exercise Can Help

September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month so let’s chat about what it is, your risk, and how you can manage it. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, affects between six and ten percent of women who are of childbearing age.

PCOS causes a hormonal imbalance that can cause irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles, acne, weight gain, and excessive body or facial hair. Your doctor will be able to identify the syndrome and direct you to appropriate treatment to control the condition and prevent future complications such as heart disease, infertility, endometrial cancer, and diabetes.

Women with PCOS should be sure to eat a healthy diet and include regular exercise each week. Maintaining a healthy weight, and losing any extra pounds, will not only help to prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes, it will also help to reduce the symptoms associated with PCOS.

There are some women that, even with increased exercise and a healthy diet, will not lose weight. Will these women still benefit? Studies have shown that exercising has health benefits, regardless of its effect on weight. Exercise affects how the body metabolizes carbohydrates (glucose) and improves insulin sensitivity, both of which help to prevent diabetes from developing. As our body becomes less sensitive to insulin, the pancreas increases its production of insulin to try to compensate. By exercising, and improving our body’s sensitivity to insulin, we keep the pancreas from working overtime.

Losing weight can be particularly important to women, not only for the health benefits but also because of the effect on energy and self-esteem. Even if the exercise does not help you to lose weight in the short term, it will still have a benefit to your health. Before starting an exercise program, it is important to check with your doctor. They may have recommendations on starting a program or cautions based on your personal medical history.

There are several ways to start an exercise program; the key is finding what works for you. You may choose to ride a stationary bike, swim, walk, or dance.

Walking is a great way to begin a habit of regular exercise. Women who enjoy a daily walk report feeling better, sleeping better, and experience fewer moods swings. Should you decide to start a walking program, make sure you have a quality pair of walking shoes. Your local running store can provide you with information on the style of shoe best for you. When you begin, do not worry about your speed, or how long you walk. Even a slow-paced walk will be good for your health, and as you build up stamina, you will be able to increase the length of your walk. Start slow, studies show that even a slow-paced walk is good for your health. As you continue your program, you will probably find your stamina builds up and you can add more distance to your walk. An excellent goal to work towards is a thirty-minute walk every day.

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