The best exercise for PCOS is strength training. If you have PCOS and want to look better, feel better, and become more confident, strength training should be your new BFF. It will support you like nothing else can, all you have to do is keep showing up and trying your best.

Before I get into the top 3 reasons why strength training is the best exercise for PCOS, I want to clear something up about weight loss and exercise: burning calories is not the primary purpose of exercise.  You have probably heard that to lose weight you need to “burn” more calories than you eat each day.

Yes, that is true, but it is very easy to eat more than you need and it’s difficult and time-consuming to burn calories through a workout. If you want to shed fat, nutrition is the key.

What does exercise have to do with losing weight with PCOS?

Exercise improves how your body functions so you’ll respond better and more quickly to the changes you’re making in your diet. If you have PCOS, this is a big deal because our genetic makeup makes us resistant to losing weight. Of all the types of exercise, strength training causes more positive changes to a PCOS body than any other type of workout. In fact, these changes can improve PCOS symptoms even if you are a lean woman living with PCOS.

If you’re new to strength training, it can be a little intimidating. I’ve put together a free DIY strength training guide that will help you learn some of the basics.

So what many strength training so great? Here are the ultimate reasons:

1. Strength training reduces insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is at the heart of many PCOS symptoms. including out of control hunger, cravings, fatigue, wonky hormones, and weight loss resistance. Strength training improves insulin resistance through 3 different mechanisms:

Muscle cells are one of the bodies main consumers of glucose. Growing more muscle cells through strength training helps keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.
Exercise makes muscle cells more sensitive to insulin. The result? Your pancreas needs to produce less insulin to keep your metabolism running smoothly.
A recent research study found that exercise changes the expression of genes that are thought to cause PCOS-related insulin resistance.

2. Strength training lowers male hormones in women with PCOS. 

Higher than normal androgens (AKA male hormones) cause annoying PCOS symptoms like facial hair, belly fat, hair loss, and acne. Many women associate muscle and weightlifting with testosterone, but that is not a logical conclusion when it comes to PCOS. Studies show that strength training actually reduces androgen levels in PCOS women. For example, this 2016 study followed 43 women with PCOS as they participated in a 16-week strength training program. After 16 weeks of regular strength training, the participants saw a significant decrease in their testosterone levels.

3. Strength training prevents weight loss plateaus.

Strength training helps you lose weight and keep it off by keeping your metabolism working at it’s best. As you diet to lose fat, you will lose some muscle mass. This can make losing weight and keeping it off difficult because your body will require fewer calories to sustain itself. Thus you will have to continually reduce your intake to keep losing fat.

The solution? Combine strength training with a PCOS-friendly diet to prevent muscle loss and keep your metabolic rate high. Even if you are dieting, strength training will stimulate muscle growth and prevent muscle loss. And since muscle tissue helps you burn more calories while at rest and while moving, you will be able to smooth out some of the natural starts and stops that come with trying to lose weight with PCOS.

If you’re ready to get started with strength training to improve your insulin resistance, lower androgens, and keep your metabolic rate healthy, grab my DIY strength training guide completely for free.

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Erika Portrait

Hi! I'm Erika.

I’m a certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach. I also happen to have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I help guide guide women living with PCOS toward a lifestyle that gets their symptoms under control so that they have the time, energy, and confidence to thrive. My tips, plans, programs, and guides cover all the information I wish I had when I was first diagnosed.

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