The science behind lifestyle changes and how it helps PCOS

The science behind lifestyle changes and how it helps PCOS

What are lifestyle changes?

The term ‘lifestyle change’ has become very popular in the health and fitness world. If you are interested in fitness or have a health condition, chances are that you have been recommended by many to make modifications to your lifestyle. But what do they mean and why is it so important?

Lifestyle change as the name suggests refers to making modifications to your daily routine. These usually include following a healthy diet, packing in all the required nutrition, incorporating physical movement, avoiding excess smoking and drinking, among others.

These can be easily understood as important aspects of leading a healthy lifestyle, one that most people aim to do. But why is it so important for people with PCOS to do so?

PCOS is a hormonal condition that has no cure; the only recourse is to take all necessary steps to manage your symptoms. The best way to start doing this is through changes in lifestyle, or medication, if necessary. For a woman suffering from PCOS, and especially if she is overweight, an improvement in lifestyle is essential to promote well-being.

The adoption of a nutritional diet and active physical behavior allows for the reduction of hyperandrogenism and its symptoms. It leads to a reduction in hair loss and a decrease in hirsutism (excess facial and body hair) and acne. It has positive effects on amenorrhea (irregular periods), and can potentially benefit fertility and improve mood. In the longer term, weight loss has a positive impact on the risk of metabolic complications associated with PCOS, including a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A realistic and attainable approach

It is important to set goals and build habits that allow you to make these required lifestyle changes and stick to them. It is critical to ensure that it is not overly ambitious as it might become difficult to follow after the initial excitement and enthusiasm die down. This is what you can do to begin:

First, analyze your current lifestyle and contemplate the uncomfortable yet inevitable questions. This may require some honest introspection. The idea is to take the real hurdles into account and create an eventual action plan.

  • What would you like to change about your present lifestyle?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of your current habits?
  • Do your current habits have a significant impact on your life?
  • How motivated are you to change?

Habit development and change in general, are things that require effort and time. When it does get difficult in your lifestyle improvement journey, tapping your motivations and reasons will keep you going and re-inspire you, if needed. The answers to these questions can be good reminders in the long run. Don’t be discouraged if you fall back into your old habits, it’s a part of the learning process. It’s all good as long as you get back on track.


Lifestyle modification adapted to your specific PCOS situation may improve free androgen index (FAI), weight, and BMI. This also has a positive effect on glucose tolerance and sleep.

The first step in making lifestyle changes is to create a routine and ensure it is easy to follow and sustainable in the future. This can look like trying to ensure you reduce your intake of processed food weekly, improve your daily step count, and include new forms of exercise into your workout regimen.

After having identified our own strengths and weaknesses in relation to our behaviors and health habits, the challenge is to modulate them in order to find an overall physical and mental balance. This health balance will always be unique to you and it can also evolve with time. Ideally one would be in a position to critically question one's lifestyle and be able to identify when they can change from being beneficial to being harmful to the overall balance.


  1. AL-Nozha O, Habib F, Mojaddidi M, El-Bab M. Body weight reduction and metformin: Roles in polycystic ovary syndrome. Pathophysiology. 2013;20(2):131-137. doi:10.1016/j.pathophys.2013.03.002
  2. Harrison, C. L., Lombard, C. B., Moran, L. J., & Teede, H. J. (2011). Exercise therapy in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review. Human reproduction update, 17(2), 171-183.
  3. Marsh KA, Steinbeck KS, Atkinson FS, Petocz P, Brand-miller JC. Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional healthy diet on polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(1):83-92. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29261
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