Introduction: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is associated with an adverse cardiovascular disease (CVD) profile. A surrogate marker for CVD risk is endothelial dysfunction. Limited studies exist examining the cardiovascular and metabolic effects of exercise in PCOS and specifically its impact on endothelial function. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to investigate the impact of exercise on endothelial function, in parallel with body composition, insulin resistance, and cardiopulmonary fitness in PCOS.
Methods: Ten women with PCOS (27 yr, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 23–32; 31 kg·m−2, 95% CI = 28–34) completed a 16-wk exercise (EX) program, and seven women with PCOS (29 yr, 95% CI = 24–35; 35 kg·m−2, 95% CI = 31–40) undertook conventional care (CC) following lifestyle advice. Brachial artery endothelial function was assessed pre- and postintervention using flow-mediated dilation adjusted for variability in baseline diameter. Visceral and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue was assessed using whole-body magnetic resonance imaging and 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy quantified liver fat. Cardiorespiratory fitness, glycemic control, hormone, and lipid profiles were also assessed. Data were analyzed using covariate-controlled generalized estimating equations.
Results: At follow-up, EX improved flow-mediated dilation by 3.6% (95% CI = 0.5–6.7, P = 0.03) more than CC. There was a parallel improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness of 4.7 mL·kg−1·min−1 (95% CI = 1.4–7.9, P < 0.001) with EX versus CC. These changes were not explained by changes in visceral adipose tissue, subcutaneous adipose tissue, liver fat or insulin resistance.
Conclusions: Supervised exercise in women with PCOS improves endothelial function, an adaptation associated with reduced CVD risk. This change occurs independent of changes in body weight or composition. The success of public health interventions in this patient group should not be solely judged by weight loss.