• Cardiovascular risk;
  • exercise tolerance;
  • metabolic syndrome;
  • obesity

Objective  To assess maximal aerobic capacity (inline image) and muscle strength in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and determine their relationship with metabolic and hormonal factors.

Design  Cross-sectional study.

Setting  Clinical Research Unit.

Population  Overweight and obese women with PCOS (n = 10) and age-and weight-matched healthy controls (n = 16).

Methods inline image was measured during an incremental treadmill test and maximal isometric (ImS) and isokinetic knee extensor strength (IkS) (120°/second) were assessed by isokinetic dynamometry.

Main outcome measures inline image, ImS, IkS, waist circumference, blood lipids, glucose, insulin, insulin resistance (homeostatic model assessment [HOMA2]), C-reactive protein (CRP), hormonal profile.

Results  PCOS women had higher levels of testosterone and free testosterone (P ≤ 0.05), but there were no significant differences in any cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk markers between the groups. inline image was similar in women with PCOS and healthy controls (PCOS 26.0 ± 4.1 ml/kg/minute, controls 25.7 ± 3.8 ml/kg/minute; P = 0.90), as was ImS (PCOS 1.50 ± 0.54 Nm/kg, controls 1.50 ± 0.47 Nm/kg; P = 0.96) and IkS (PCOS 1.04 ± 0.32 Nm/kg, controls 1.16 ± 0.23 Nm/kg; P = 0.32). inline image was inversely related to waist circumference, insulin, HOMA2 and CRP. Waist circumference was inversely associated with ImS and IkS. No significant associations between exercise parameters and hormonal variables were identified.

Conclusions  Compared to age- and weight-matched healthy overweight and obese women with similar insulin resistance and CVD risk profiles, women with PCOS had similar aerobic capacity and muscle strength. This suggests PCOS, at least in the absence of an adverse metabolic profile is unlikely to limit physical function. Larger studies examining the effects of PCOS on exercise tolerance in a diverse range of PCOS phenotypes is required.