How much should I work out each week?

by Shenade Finnestad
(Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)


I was diagnosed in May 2009 with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I am currently working on changing my diet to help combat this disorder. However, I'm having trouble with the exercise portion. As I am lacking in energy, exercise has been difficult for me.

My question to you is whether I should be working out every day and if so, for how long? If you do not recommend I workout every day, how many days a week do you recommend? Basing all of this on my PCOS, of course.

Currently I workout at home with Jillian Michaels 30-day shred DVD which is a 20 minute circuit training workout and I also use the Biggest Loser WII game and workout between 20-40 minutes which again is circuit training.

Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.


Editor's comments: Since Gemma has not yet answered you, I'll chip in with some thoughts.

One issue to consider is your "lack of energy". Consult with your doctor about that. See if you can determine the cause. For example, do you have subclinical (moderate) hypothyroidism? Women who have PCOS also have a higher tendency to have thyroid dysfunction, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease. A dysfunctional thyroid can cause you to not have energy and makes any weight loss very difficult.

Although I can't advise you as an exercise professional, I can say I'm a fan of variety. I like a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise, since these very different exercises stress the body in different ways. Gemma or another personal trainer can give you their detailed recommendations.

Another benefit of variety is that your muscles don't get accustomed to doing the same thing over and over and over again. By "confusing" your muscles with different types of movements and resistance, it's thought that you can get stronger and fit substantially faster.

I'm also a big fan of "core exercises", those exercises that work the core muscles deep inside the body. They can be difficult to do without professional guidance because many exercises don't engage the core muscles very much.

According to some studies I've seen, the intensity of the exercise is important if you want to reduce a condition called "insulin resistance". Insulin resistance is thought to be a primary cause of PCOS. In other words, the more intense the exercise, the greater the desired effect of lessening insulin resistance.

Another factor to consider is enjoyment. I think it's really important to enjoy your physical activity. So you may want to choose those kinds of exercise that give you the most enjoyment.

Bear in mind that exercise is something that you will be doing consistently for the rest of your life. So you might as well enjoy it!

Secondly, if you do something you enjoy, your stress level goes down and you will tend to produce smaller amounts of stress hormones over time. Stress hormones tear down your body, increase belly fat, and worsen symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.

If you are overweight, you may need to increase the amount of time your exercise each day.

Some experts say you should exercise every day. Others say you should exercise only 3-4 times a week. I don't know who is right. I might suggest that some days be "intense" or "heavy" exercise, interspersed with days of "light" exercise. As a personal trainer about this. However, I do recommend that you be physically active every day, even if you are not exercising. By this I mean do not be sedentary. Move your body! That's what it's designed for.

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