How to safely do cardio with PCOS

Wondering how you can incorporate cardio into your lifestyle with PCOS? Read more here!

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it: your overall lifestyle can play a huge role when it comes to managing your PCOS. What does this mean? Factors like your diet, sleep, exercise, and stress levels can all impact your symptoms. The key ingredient to success is to listen to your body and monitor any changes using a symptom tracker, like the one on the Pollie app. By keeping track of your symptoms and lifestyle habits, you can start connecting the dots of how certain foods, physical activity, or other environmental factors can affect your wellbeing. 

In this article, we’ll be focusing on how movement can improve PCOS symptoms, specifically how cardio can be a part of your exercise routine. If you have searched what type of exercise is best for PCOS, you have most likely received a mix of results and feel like you are back at square one. That’s why we will be taking a look at cardio and PCOS and how you can fit it into your lifestyle.

Exercise and PCOS 

Movement is crucial to maintaining overall health, both physically and mentally. Exercise helps strengthen bones, muscles, and reduces health risks. Additionally, it helps relieve stress by releasing endorphins and can even improve the quality of sleep (1). 

The benefits of exercise apply to everyone, but they can especially help symptoms if you have insulin resistant PCOS (2).This is because insulin resistance has been shown to improve with regular activity, particularly higher-intensity workouts (3). This type of PCOS is most common and you can minimize the severity of your other symptoms by addressing this issue, as there is a vicious cycle that can occur between insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and elevated androgen levels.

However, if you have adrenal PCOS (or even inflammatory PCOS) and your symptoms are in part being driven by high stress levels, you will likely want to focus on doing more gentle types of movement such as lower intensity cardio (e.g. walking, light ellipticalling or cycling), yoga, and pilates.

Not sure what type of PCOS you have? Check out this article to learn more and talk to your doctor to determine what type you have.

Is it safe to do cardio with PCOS?

Some sources say cardio is great for PCOS while others say it can aggravate symptoms. So is it safe to do cardio with PCOS?

The answer is yes, you can still incorporate cardio into your lifestyle, especially if it is something you enjoy!

As discussed, people with PCOS tend to have a higher rate of insulin resistance. This means your body has a harder time converting blood sugar into energy, so your pancreas works overtime to try to produce enough insulin for this conversion to happen. Eventually, that process exhausts the pancreas, which then leads to high blood sugar overtime and can develop into other health complications.

Exercise can help mitigate those risks. Aerobic training and HIIT workouts have been shown to help insulin resistance and improve body composition in people with PCOS. It is also a good tool for weight management and can boost quality of life (2, 4).

However, because your hormones are more sensitive than the average person’s, one thing you may want to consider is the amount of cardio you do if you have PCOS. 

How much cardio can I do with PCOS?

The reason why a crazy sweat session (running, swimming, rowing, etc.) is typically not recommended for PCOS is because it can put your body under too much stress. This happens when you don’t give your body enough time to recover or if you’re exercising at a moderate pace for more than 60 minutes, causing your body to produce additional cortisol, a stress hormone (5). 

Part of PCOS symptom management is reducing stress, so putting your body under additional stress can worsen your condition. We know how contradicting this all sounds, but below are the main points to remember if you are someone who loves heart pounding workouts and wants to continue those forms of exercises (5).

  • Keep workouts under an hour
  • Take breaks 
  • Give your body time to recover
  • Incorporate low impact exercises 
  • Listen to your body and be on top of tracking your symptoms  
  • Make sure you’re getting proper nutrition to fuel your workouts

Read more about the complex feedback loop of stress and PCOS here.

The big takeaway

When it comes to your PCOS journey, there is no right or wrong way to manage your symptoms. If cardio or endurance training is your favorite form of exercise, learn how to adapt your movement to find the balance of a good workout without pushing yourself to exhaustion. Additionally, you should speak with your doctor or a healthcare professional to continually monitor your symptoms and alert them of any changes.

Did you know our co-founder, Jane, is an avid runner? Read more about how she balances her passion of running with PCOS here


  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2021, November 1). Benefits of Physical Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from 
  2. Hutchison SK, Stepto NK, Harrison CL, Moran LJ, Strauss BJ, Teede HJ. (2011, January). Effects of exercise on insulin resistance and body composition in overweight and obese women with and without polycystic ovary syndrome. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from
  3. Almenning, I., Rieber-Mohn, A., Lundgren, K. M., Shetelig Løvvik, T., Garnæs, K. K., & Moholdt, T. (2015). Effects of High Intensity Interval Training and Strength Training on Metabolic, Cardiovascular and Hormonal Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Pilot Study. PloS one, 10(9), e0138793.
  4. Costa EC, DE Sá JCF, Stepto NK, Costa IBB, Farias-Junior LF, Moreira SDNT, Soares EMM, Lemos TMAM, Browne RAV, Azevedo GD. Aerobic Training Improves Quality of Life in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from
  5. Cortisol, Stress, and Exercise. (2019, January 10). DNAFit. Retrieved March 16, 2022 from,