4 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Manage PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects up to 13% of reproductive-aged women, is a condition that carries complex and layered health risks. While there have been research-established links between PCOS and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, new research has found a connection with cognitive decline. It has also been linked to high incidence rates of obstructive sleep apnea. All these risk factors can affect a person’s quality of life through physical, mental, and psychological impacts. Thus, while PCOS cannot be cured, an ideal way to address the condition is through a holistic approach accounting for various lifestyle aspects. Here are four lifestyle-based changes for PCOS management:

Managing weight

Women with PCOS often find it difficult to lose weight; between 40% and 80% are reported to be overweight or obese, according to an Obesity Management study. Anyone with obesity is at a higher risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and more, as PCOS and obesity have been known to exacerbate one another. So, women whose biology is impacting their ability to lose weight may be prescribed PCOS medication for weight loss. For example, metformin may be prescribed to assist with insulin resistance but can also reduce fatty tissue. On the other hand, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) medications were initially used for type 2 diabetes, but specific GLP medications for weight loss are also available, which combat insulin resistance and reduce appetite and cravings. Still, doctors typically recommend supporting these medications with other positive lifestyle changes.

Sleeping better

PCOS is also linked to various sleep disturbances. Journal of Nutrition researchers found that women with PCOS reported more adverse sleep symptoms, such as severe tiredness, difficulty sleeping, and restless sleep, compared to those without. Crucially, these symptoms persisted even when women with PCOS reported the same sleep duration as those without. Given this, women with PCOS should focus not only on sleep quantity but also on quality. We’ve discussed ways to optimize your bedroom for better sleep, such as choosing soothing colors, keeping gadgets out, and using aromatherapy to induce relaxation. These methods will help you minimize the chances of interrupted or poor-quality rest, primarily as deep sleep is known to help reduce inflammation and promote better hormonal balance. Being well-rested also gives women with PCOS the energy to engage in daily activities, such as exercise.


Exercising more often

Fatigue, low energy levels, and painful periods can make it hard for women with PCOS to muster the energy for exercise. However, exercise does not have to be lengthy to achieve the best results. A Systematic Reviews paper found that the best improvements among overweight and obese participants with PCOS were seen when exercises were aerobic and lasted a shorter duration. This is supported by a Frontiers in Physiology meta-analysis, which concluded that vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise is the most likely to reduce (BMI) and insulin resistance for those with PCOS. Short bursts of exercise such as 20-minute high-intensity interval training, half-hour spin classes, or even 10 minutes of sprinting on a treadmill may be ideal for those with unpredictable energy levels.

Managing stress

Finally, stress is another factor to watch out for. Per the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, women with PCOS are three times more likely to be diagnosed with stress-adjacent conditions like anxiety and depression. However, stress can be managed for free at home with simple mindfulness meditation exercises. In a BMC Psychiatry study, women with PCOS were asked to try eight 90-minute mindfulness-based stress reduction sessions, which included mindful body examination and sitting meditation. This significantly reduced worry scores related to interpersonal problems and mental complications, and more so than a control group. These exercises can be done on your own or with a video or app guidance for additional support.

PCOS can be overwhelming, but managing it doesn’t have to be. With the above tips, women can sustain or even improve their quality of life despite their diagnosis.


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