Why HIIT Might Help Your PCOS

Despina Pavlou

Coach

Women's Fitness, Nutrition

Fitness, interval training, HIIT, women's fitness, women's health, pcos

 

If like me, you do not enjoy slow or moderately-paced cardio, you are in luck. While we all know cardio is important for our cardiovascular health, there is one type that has greater benefits for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and that is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is not only an efficient and effective form of exercise but has also been shown to aid in reducing and even preventing many physiological symptoms associated with PCOS.
 
Currently, there are not many studies on HIIT training and PCOS. However, the few studies that have been done in this area are encouraging. Furthermore, there are plenty of other studies that highlight how implementing HIIT into your workout program can provide great benefits for your overall health.
 
 

HIIT, PCOS, and Insulin Resistance

Along with a PCOS diagnosis, many women are also told they are insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is when the cells in the body have difficulty absorbing glucose, and as a result, there is a build-up of sugar in the blood. The pancreas begins to produce even more insulin to do the job it is meant to do, which is manage blood sugar levels.
 
An elevated level of insulin in the body causes the ovary to produce excess androgens, which in turn results in a hormone imbalance. Treating PCOS requires you to get to the root causes of the condition, which often include insulin resistance.
 
HIIT can be a useful tool for that purpose. A pilot study on the effect of HIIT on PCOS found that HIIT completed over the course of 10 weeks improved insulin resistance, with no change in weight. So even if you do not see the numbers go down on the scale, improvements are being made in the body for your overall health.
 

HIIT, Maximal Oxygen Uptake, and Belly Fat

Many women with PCOS carry most of their weight around their midsection. Excess belly fat can often be an indication of further chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
 
The University of New England conducted a study on insulin resistance and HIIT in women with PCOS in which a group of PCOS women aged 18 and above were randomly allocated to one of two groups: an HIIT group or a control (non-exercise) group. The results showed that after 12 weeks of HIIT cardio, undertaken three times a week, the PCOS participants had significantly improved their VO2 max, peak power, and they observed a reduction in waist and hip circumference.
 

Why Is HIIT So Effective?

The bursts of intense intervals require plenty of glucose. As a result of the significant release, there are drastic changes to glucose levels in your muscle cells, which in turn helps to make insulin active again during the recovery period. Insulin transports glucose back into the muscles to replenish them.
 
In other words, undertaking high-intensity interval training increases insulin sensitivity through expending glucose and then allowing blood glucose to enter the muscle cells. This is important for your health, as it helps to the lower the risk of developing diabetes.
 
HIIT is a vigorous form of exercise, and such intense exercise has been associated with increased risk of acute cardiovascular events. Because of this, your doctor may want to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) screening before you begin. However, a recent retrospective analysis of supervised cardiac rehabilitation exercise found that HIIT was associated with a low risk of acute cardiovascular events over a 7-year period.
 

What Do You Do for HIIT?

Now you know why you should implement HIIT into your PCOS workout plan, but you are most likely wondering what specifically to do. First, there is no best form of HIIT; this is all down to personal preference. However, to reap the benefits, choose an exercise that will use the majority of your muscle groups. Select full-body exercises such as sprints, rowing, swimming, plyometrics, squats, or deadlifts.
 
Likewise, science has not yet revealed an ideal interval regimen. However, HIIT protocols suggest intervals ranging from 10 seconds to four minutes, at intensities ≥70% of maximal aerobic capacity, are safe and effective in clinical populations.
 
Designing your HIIT workout is dependent on your initial fitness and experience. You should gradually progress your intensity, interval duration, and number of sets. Individuals with a low fitness level would begin with low intensity, for example increasing the walking pace every 30-60 seconds. Someone who already exercises regularly may have to increase the intensity by walking uphill, or by increasing the work time and reducing the rest time.
 
HIIT sessions often last for 25 minutes or less, including warm up and cool down:
 
  • 3 minutes of warm up
  • 10 sprints of 60 seconds, with 60 seconds of recovery
  • 2 minutes of cool down
 
I believe HIIT can help you reduce or even prevent many of the dreaded symptoms and health risks associated with PCOS. Build a strong body, and take back control of PCOS.
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