Vigorous exercise is associated with superior metabolic profiles in polycystic ovary syndrome independent of total exercise expenditure

Vigorous exercise is associated with superior health profiles and reduced odds of metabolic syndrome in polycystic ovary syndrome, independent of age, body mass index, or total exercise expenditure.

Eleni A. Greenwood, M.D., M.Sc., Martha W. Noel, M.D., Chia-Ning Kao, M.Sc., Kanade Shinkai, M.D., Ph.D., Lauri A. Pasch, Ph.D., Marcelle I. Cedars, M.D., Heather G. Huddleston, M.D.

Volume 105, Issue 2, Pages 486-493


To characterize metabolic features of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by exercise behavior and determine relative health benefits of different exercise intensities.

Cross-sectional study.

Multidisciplinary PCOS clinic at a tertiary academic institution.

Three hundred and twenty-six women aged 14–52 with PCOS by Rotterdam criteria examined between 2006 and 2013.

International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) administered to classify patients into three groups based on Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Guidelines of vigorous, moderate, and inactive, along with physical examination and serum testing.

Main Outcome Measure(s):
Blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, fasting lipids, fasting glucose and insulin, 2-hour 75-gram oral glucose tolerance, homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).

The DHHS guidelines for adequate physical activity were met by 182 (56%) women. Compared with moderate exercisers and inactive women, the vigorous exercisers had lower BMI and lower HOMA-IR; higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and sex hormone-binding globulin; and a reduced prevalence of the metabolic syndrome. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis controlling for age, BMI, and total energy expenditure, every hour of vigorous exercise reduced a patient’s odds of metabolic syndrome by 22% (odds ratio 0.78; 95% confidence interval, 0.62, 0.99).

Women with PCOS who met DHHS guidelines for exercise demonstrated superior metabolic health parameters. Vigorous but not moderate activity is associated with reduced odds of the metabolic syndrome, independent of age, BMI, and total energy expenditure. PCOS patients should be encouraged to meet activity guidelines via vigorous physical activity.

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