Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS affects a lot of women, most of whom aren't even aware they have this condition because of how common the symptoms are: irregular menstruation, unexplainable weight gain, male pattern hair growth, and acne breakouts. Often, they find out around the age that they're ready to start a family, and when they try to conceive without any luck, that's when they see a medical professional. But say you have noticed some changes in your body, specifically your cycle, and you're diagnosed with PCOS. What happens next? How are you supposed to tackle it?
What is PCOS?
The first step is understanding what's happening to your body when you have PCOS. A hormonal condition, PCOS generally occurs when you have an insulin-resistant gene. Insulin is the hormone that controls sugar metabolism. To give you an idea, a normal cell has around 120,000 receptors for insulin. The insulin attaches to a receptor and unlocks the sugar molecule. This is essentially how sugar is burned. Women with PCOS have fewer receptors—around 5,000 receptors, to be exact. This means having fewer landing sites for insulin, which then means less sugar is burned.
Is there a cure?
There's currently no cure for PCOS but one of the major ways to address this condition is to make tweaks in your lifestyle, specifically your diet and fitness routine.
When it comes to food, following a diet that focuses on lower carbs will benefit your body. To avoid insulin spikes, your meals should consist of mostly veggies and some type of protein. Avoid simple carbs like white rice or white bread because these are much harder to break down. Replace all the junk with food for a low-glycemic index (GI) diet like whole grains, legumes, seeds, fruits, and starchy vegetables.
Even without PCOS, working out has so, so many benefits. But for women with PCOS, getting up and moving is one of the secrets to living with this condition. Dr. Zoe Arugay-Magat of LifeScience Center (LSC) told Cosmopolitan that aerobic exercises "improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, which are vital in the PCOS puzzle. They reduce anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and lowers inflammation. It benefits you even if you haven't lost weight yet." She added, "Each woman is unique and so exercise prescription varies, too. And we can't also just assume that exercise plans for men can apply to us because we're just wired differently ('cause of hormones!). It would be ideal to have a plan that promotes strength, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and balance."
What are some aerobic exercises?
You probably know these as "cardio workouts," meaning it involves cardio conditioning. These are the exercises that get your heart rate and breathing up. They keep your heart and lungs healthy.
But don't be intimidated: These workouts aren't as intense as you think. In fact, aerobic exercises can be as simple as walking, which is already a huge step towards the right direction for people who have been sedentary for most of their life. You can kick it up a notch and try jogging or running once you get comfortable.
If you prefer to stay at home because of the pandemic, there are so many YouTube videos or online classes you can follow. For example, Zumba will help you burn calories and improve your coordination. Kick boxing is another good aerobic workout; it's high impact that builds strength. You may even notice that you have quicker reflexes because of it.
A popular option these days is jump rope. Not only does it help with coordination and agility, it might also make you feel like a kid again, and that's always fun!
But how often should you be working out? According to American Heart Association, you should "get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week." Once you get the hang of it, feel free to increase the amount of time you put into fitness as well as the intensity of your go-to exercises.
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