The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise for Women with PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects approximately 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. It is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, elevated levels of male hormones, and the presence of small cysts on the ovaries. Women with PCOS often face numerous physical and emotional challenges, including an increased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. In this article, we will explore the benefits of exercise for women with PCOS, and discuss how incorporating regular physical activity can improve mental health and overall well-being.

Understanding the Mental Health Challenges Associated with PCOS

Anxiety & depression

Women with PCOS are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than the general population. This can be attributed to hormonal imbalances, as well as the stress and emotional impact of dealing with the symptoms of PCOS.

Body image issues

Due to the presence of excess male hormones, women with PCOS may experience unwanted hair growth, acne, and weight gain. These symptoms can contribute to negative body image, feelings of self-consciousness, and low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem and self-confidence

The symptoms and challenges associated with PCOS can undermine a woman's self-esteem and self-confidence, affecting her relationships, career, and overall quality of life.

Emotional stress related to fertility and menstrual irregularities

PCOS is a leading cause of infertility, and women with the condition may experience distress over their ability to conceive. Additionally, menstrual irregularities can exacerbate emotional stress and create feelings of inadequacy.

The Science Behind Exercise and Mental Health

The role of endorphins

Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. These endorphins can help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and promote feelings of well-being.

Impact on stress hormones (cortisol)

Physical activity can help regulate the body's stress response by reducing the production of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to anxiety and depression.

Improvement in brain function and neuroplasticity

Exercise has been shown to enhance brain function and increase neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to adapt and change. This can result in improved cognitive function, emotional regulation, and overall mental health.

Exercise as a natural antidepressant and anxiolytic

Regular physical activity has been shown to have a similar effect on mental health as antidepressant and anxiolytic medications, making it a natural and accessible treatment option for women with PCOS.

Exercise stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which can help to elevate mood, reduce stress, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, exercise can improve sleep quality, promote a sense of accomplishment, and enhance overall well-being. All these factors contribute to the positive impact of exercise on mental health for women with PCOS.

Recommended Types of Exercises for Women with PCOS

Aerobic exercises

  1. Walking: A low-impact, accessible activity suitable for all fitness levels. Walking can be easily incorporated into daily routines and helps to improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and burn calories.
  2. Swimming: A full-body, low-impact workout that strengthens muscles, increases endurance, and supports mental health. Swimming can also help to alleviate joint pain and discomfort, making it an excellent choice for women with PCOS who may experience these issues.
  3. Cycling: An effective, low-impact exercise that improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens lower body muscles, and supports mental well-being. Cycling can be done indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors for added enjoyment and connection to nature.

Strength training

  1. Bodyweight exercises: Utilize the body's own weight as resistance, making them a convenient and effective workout option. Examples include push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks, which can help to build muscle, increase metabolism, and boost self-esteem.
  2. Resistance bands: An affordable and versatile tool for strength training, resistance bands can be used to perform various exercises targeting different muscle groups. They are portable and easy to use, allowing for a customized workout experience.
  3. Weightlifting: Incorporating free weights or machines can help to build strength, tone muscles, and improve bone density. Weightlifting can also increase confidence and self-esteem, as women see their progress and achievements over time.

Mind-body exercises

  1. Yoga: Combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, promoting both physical and mental health. Yoga can help to increase flexibility, strength, and balance while reducing stress and anxiety in women with PCOS.
  2. Pilates: Focuses on strengthening the core muscles, improving posture, and enhancing body awareness. Pilates can help women with PCOS to feel more connected to their bodies, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.
  3. Tai Chi: A gentle, flowing form of movement that incorporates deep breathing and mindfulness. Tai Chi can help to reduce stress, improve balance and coordination, and enhance mental clarity in women with PCOS.

Tailoring Exercise Programs for Women with PCOS

Creating an effective and personalized exercise program is crucial for women with PCOS, as it can enhance the mental health benefits of physical activity while addressing individual needs and preferences.

Assessing individual needs and preferences

Before starting an exercise program, women with PCOS should consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert to discuss their unique needs, limitations, and goals. This may include addressing any underlying health issues, fitness levels, and personal preferences for types of exercises.

Setting realistic and achievable goals

Women with PCOS should establish clear, specific, and attainable goals to stay motivated and track progress. Goals may include improving mental health, increasing physical fitness, or managing PCOS symptoms. Breaking these goals into smaller, manageable milestones can provide a sense of accomplishment and help maintain motivation.

Incorporating stress-reducing techniques and mindfulness practices

In addition to regular exercise, integrating stress-reduction techniques and mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation, can further support mental health for women with PCOS. These practices can also enhance the mind-body connection, improving the overall effectiveness of the exercise program.

Overcoming Barriers to Exercise

It is common for women with PCOS to face challenges when attempting to establish and maintain a consistent exercise routine. Overcoming these barriers is essential for reaping the mental health benefits of physical activity.

Time management strategies

Finding time to exercise can be challenging, especially with busy schedules. Prioritizing exercise, creating a daily routine, and utilizing short workout sessions throughout the day can help make physical activity more manageable and sustainable.

Building social support networks

Joining support groups, enlisting workout buddies, or participating in group fitness classes can provide motivation, accountability, and a sense of belonging. Social support networks can be vital in overcoming obstacles and maintaining long-term commitment to an exercise program.

Celebrating small successes

Acknowledging and celebrating small achievements, such as reaching a fitness milestone or completing a workout, can boost self-confidence and motivation. This positive reinforcement can help women with PCOS stay committed to their exercise program and maintain a positive mindset.

Seeking professional guidance

Working with a PCOS personal trainer, fitness coach, or healthcare professional who understands the unique challenges of PCOS can provide tailored guidance and support. These professionals can help design an effective exercise program, monitor progress, and offer advice on overcoming barriers and setbacks.


In conclusion, exercise offers significant mental health benefits for women with PCOS, helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress while boosting self-esteem and body image. By creating a tailored exercise program that incorporates various types of exercises and addresses individual needs and preferences, women with PCOS can take control of their emotional well-being.

Overcoming barriers to exercise and seeking professional guidance can further support long-term commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Ultimately, incorporating regular physical activity into daily life can empower women with PCOS to manage their mental health effectively and improve their overall quality of life.

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Justina Triasovaite

Professional Personal Trainer - Strength and Conditioning Coach
Professional personal trainer at The Gym Way in London, UK with over 10 years experience offering expertise, advise and one to one personal training. For more information on Justina visit Justina Training

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818