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PCOS and Why Those HIIT Sessions May Be Doing More Harm Than Good

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) affects millions of women worldwide, presenting various challenges, including weight management (both gaining and losing goals). For women with PCOS, effectively managing the condition requires a strategic approach to exercise. While HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) has gained popularity, scientific evidence suggests that strength training is a superior choice for women with PCOS.

Let's explore the research-backed reasons why strength training reigns supreme over HIIT and cardio-based classes, offering a path to control and long-term PCOS management.

1. Cortisol Control:

PCOS is often associated with hormonal imbalances, and cortisol (the stress hormone), can exacerbate symptoms. HIIT, being an intense form of exercise, has been shown to elevate cortisol levels, which can contribute to insulin resistance and hinder fat loss efforts in women with PCOS.

On the other hand, strength training helps maintain more stable cortisol levels, which promotes hormonal balance and supporting PCOS management.

2. Appetite Management:

Women with PCOS commonly face challenges in appetite regulation, and HIIT has been linked to increased hunger hormones, potentially leading to overeating. In contrast, strength training has a more favourable impact on appetite control, assisting women in maintaining a balanced caloric intake and supporting their fat loss goals.

3. Muscle Preservation and Building:

Preserving and building muscle mass is essential for women with PCOS. Unfortunately, HIIT can lead to muscle catabolism, burning valuable muscle tissue along with fat. Strength training, however, prioritizes muscle preservation and development, which is crucial for a higher metabolism and improved insulin sensitivity. This helps women with both fat loss and weight gain goals.

A study published in the "Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport" (2018) compared the effects of strength training and HIIT on body composition and found that strength training was more effective at preserving muscle mass while reducing body fat in women with PCOS.

4. Insulin Sensitivity Improvement:

Insulin resistance is a hallmark of PCOS, making insulin sensitivity improvement a vital aspect of managing the condition. Multiple studies have demonstrated that strength training positively impacts insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS, aiding in better blood sugar control and overall health.

Research published in the "European Journal of Applied Physiology" (2017) showed that strength training improved insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS, highlighting its potential therapeutic benefits.

5. Boosted Metabolism:

Building muscle through strength training contributes to a higher BMR (basal metabolic rate), allowing women with PCOS to burn more calories at rest and after a strength workout is completed. This increased metabolism makes it easier to achieve and maintain fat loss goals in the long run.

A study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" (2014) found that increased muscle mass through resistance training led to a significant rise in BMR, indicating its importance in fat loss and weight management.

6. Empowerment and PCOS Control:

Beyond the physical benefits, strength training empowers women with PCOS by fostering self-confidence and control over their bodies. The sense of accomplishment and strength gained from weightlifting can positively impact mental health and overall well-being, aiding in managing the emotional challenges associated with PCOS.

7. The Downside of Cardio-Based Classes:

While popular workout classes like Barry's Bootcamp, F45, and Orange Theory Fitness have their merits of feeling like “WOW, what a workout!”, they often prioritize high-intensity cardio exercises over muscle-building activities. While this is great for movement, following a routine, being a part of a community - for women with PCOS, who already face muscle loss challenges, excessive cardio can be counterproductive, potentially hindering their fat loss and PCOS management efforts.

While cardio-based classes may help burn calories in the short term, they might not be the most sustainable or effective approach for women with PCOS aiming for long-term fat loss and overall health.

Embrace the empowerment that comes with strength training, and witness how this transformative form of exercise can help you regain control of your body and conquer PCOS with confidence and resilience.


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