“I put weight on because of the pill and tried everything, I can’t lose it”
“I can’t loose weight, I have PCOS. I’m going to need medication to control diabetes and cholesterol as I get older”
“What’s the point? I have thyroid problems, I will always have weight issues”
“I can’t successfully exercise with Cushing’s syndrome, it’s too hard”
I hear this almost every day and it makes me sad. Women who think there is no hope because they have a condition, and even worse, women who keep putting on weight despite their efforts at the gym and always buying low fat products.
PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is a common condition in women where their ovaries become covered in fluid filled sacs (cysts), which effects the regulation of hormones. Severity and symptoms range from hardly noticeable to extreme stomach cramps, hormonal extremes and/or amenorrhea. In all cases it increases risk of high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, obesity and more.
Cushing’s syndrome is a hormonal imbalance due to the adrenal glands releasing too much cortisol. Its symptoms are often quite severe which increases the mortality rate of its sufferers. The most common symptom is weight gain around the face, neck and trunk. Other complications include type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, hyperlilidaemia, obesity, hypertension, and psychological alterations.
Noticing a trend? PCOS, Cushing’s syndrome, thyroid problems, oral contraceptives and most other female problems affect the release, metabolism and clearance of hormones and all have a pretty similar risks list. The good news is that regular exercise at a moderate to high intensity WILL help return hormones to a normal and functional level. Key words there were regular and intensity…
Regular Exercise: On a daily basis, even 2 or 3 times a day, with rest days every 4 days or whenever your body really needs it to avoid over training.
Moderate to high intensity: The physiological effects of training, (lowering of cholesterol, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, hormonal stability and increases in strength, endurance, cardiovascular capacity and more) is directly related to the intensity and volume of your exercise. The greater the intensity and volume the greater the benefit. Plus high intensity means shorter duration so if you think about key word 1 it kind of works better. You can’t do a 2hour gym session 3 times a day without serious consequences but 3 x 15 minute highly intense (on the floor recovering for another 15 minutes) sessions is certianly doable! But remember, intensity is relative. High intensity to me is very different to high intensity to high level CrossFit or Weightlifting Athlete, which is different again to an 80 year old lady with osteoporosis.
I’m not saying that this is a cure for everything. These conditions have multiple factors and therefore will need multiple treatments. But exercise, in the right form, will play a bigger role in your recovery then you could imagine. Not to mention the lowered rate of osteoporosis with resistance training (very important as women), the psychological uplift gained when exercising regularly and the new found body shape that will get better and better with time. It’s a win win situation. Nutrition also plays a big role with hormonal changes and can be the make or break of a recovery program, but that’s a whole other article. There are a lot of studies out there that will tell you exercise at intensity will effect your hormone levels, that lowered adipose tissue will decrease symptoms of many conditions and lower risk of the development of others. You can read over and over again about the benefits of exercise and nutrition but there is no substitute to experience. As a former sufferer of very severe PCOS I can absolutely vouch for regular high intensity exercise, weightlifting and a diet high in a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and natural fats with minimal dairy and processed sugar. I lost 10Kg against all odds, regulated my hormone production throughout my cycle and no longer suffer the extreme pain of PCOS.
Ladies… There is hope!