Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can affect your physical health and emotional wellbeing. It may also impact your relationships and sexual desire. Learn practical ways to improve your physical health and emotional wellbeing.
Having a healthy lifestyle is the most effective way to manage PCOS and reduce the severity of symptoms. This includes eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and reducing or stopping harmful habits such as smoking and excessive drinking.
It can be hard to manage your weight if you have PCOS. This includes maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight. Learn more about PCOS and weight management.
Changing your lifestyle can be challenging. Research suggests that women with PCOS are more likely to make and maintain lifestyle changes when they have a strong support network. A support network can include healthcare professionals, family and friends.
Physical activity is an important part of managing PCOS. It can improve symptoms and reduce the risk of developing long-term health conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
For women with PCOS, there are many benefits of regular physical activity, including:
Research suggests that any type of regular physical activity helps to improve PCOS symptoms – even if there is little or no weight loss.
It’s a good idea to do a variety of physical activities so you stay interested and motivated. The type of activity is not important. It’s more important to enjoy what you’re doing. For example, you might walk with a friend, join a training group or enrol in a fun fitness class. You could also walk a little further from a car park or public transport stop to work.
And remember, physical activity includes walking and household chores as well as sports and planned exercise.
Try to do some type of physical activity every day for 30 minutes and increase this over time. You can break this up into smaller sessions (e.g. 10 to 15 minutes) throughout the day.
A combination of cardio and muscle strength activity is recommended.
For women with PCOS who want to prevent weight gain and maintain health, do 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity activity or just over an hour of high-intensity activity per week – or a combination of both. Include muscle-strengthening activities.
For women with PCOS who want to lose weight without dieting, prevent putting weight back on or improve health, do just over 4 hours of moderate-intensity activity or about 2.5 hours of high-intensity activity per week – or a combination of both. Also do muscle-strengthening activities on two non-consecutive days per week.
Read the recommended guidelines for exercise.
You may have negative views about exercise for different reasons. If you don’t know where to start or feel you might be at risk of injury, consider seeing a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for advice and support.
While there’s no evidence that one diet is better than another in helping to manage PCOS symptoms, it’s recommended women with PCOS eat a healthy, balanced diet.
A healthy diet:
A healthy diet means eating a variety of foods from the five food groups every day. For example, vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meats and reduced-fat dairy. It’s also important to focus on eating low-GI carbohydrates, which produce lower glucose and insulin levels in the blood, and drink plenty of water.
Remember that progress is not always straightforward. Many things in our lives can stop our best efforts to be healthy, such as stress and emotional challenges. These can be hard to predict and can seem overwhelming at times. The important thing is to stay focused on your goals. Some days you will succeed in meeting your goals, and other days you will not do as well, but in the end, you will make progress.
Your doctor or an accredited practising dietitian (APD) can help you find the right diet and support you to achieve your long-term goals.
In this video, dietitian Terrill Bruere talks about lifestyle and gives diet advice for the management of PCOS.
Living with PCOS can affect your emotional wellbeing. Your feelings may vary depending on:
If living with PCOS is affecting your emotional wellbeing, it’s important to get support and treat your symptoms.
Watch this video featuring psychologist Dr Mandy Deeks, who explains why feelings of anxiety and depression occur more commonly in women with PCOS, and what you can do about it.
It’s common for women with PCOS to have lowered sexual desire (libido).
Sexual desire varies from woman to woman and can be influenced by different factors. For example, your health, stress levels and mood.
Women with PCOS report more problems with sexual desire. This may be due to physical symptoms of PCOS (e.g. being overweight or having excess facial hair) leading to lowered mood or self-esteem.
If you feel that PCOS is affecting your sex life, it’s important to talk to your doctor. With the right support these issues can be improved.
If you have a partner, it may help to explain what you are going through. You can also ask them to read information about PCOS and support you when needed. It may be helpful to take them to your medical appointments so they have a better understanding of the condition.
Having PCOS and problems with fertility may make you feel worried, angry or depressed. This may also have an impact on your relationship. You can talk to your doctor, counsellor or psychologist about treatment options and ways to look after your emotional wellbeing.
If you have PCOS and you’re not sure whether you need to take contraception, talk to your doctor. Contraception such as the oral contraceptive pill may be the best option as it can also help to treat some symptoms.
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at May 2023.