Are you worried that you are not exercising enough? Or are you exercising too much? It is well known that keeping fit is vital to a healthy lifestyle, but the connection between exercise and fertility is less clear. As a result, there are no specific recommendations which doctors give you about exercise if you are trying to conceive. However, there are some general guidelines that you can follow whether you are a regular gym bunny or you do no exercise at all.
Because the topics covered by exercise and fertility are quite large and some may not apply to you, below is list of the sections which you can click on to go to directly:
- Should I Start Exercising When Trying to Get Pregnant?
- Too Much Exercise May Be Detrimental to Your Fertility
- Should I Change My Exercise Schedule When Trying to Conceive?
- Should I Avoid Any Particular Sports?
- Is There Anything Else I Should Know About Exercise and Fertility?
Should I Start Exercising When Trying to Get Pregnant?
There is no known link between doing no exercise and fertility. However, doing no regular exercise is bad for your general health, which could be a factor that affects your fertility negatively, especially if you are on the borderline for fertility in the first place.
If you are trying to get pregnant, my recommendation for exercise is to aim to incorporate some activity within your day to day life. The current standard guidelines encourage 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. This can be anything which causes your heart rate to rise, make you a bit breathless and a bit sweaty, so even brisk walking counts.
Disclaimer: Before starting any new exercise program, you should discuss it with your doctor first.
How Does Too Little Exercise Affect Fertility?
As I have said, there is no known connection between exercise and fertility, however, regular exercise works to increase the blood flow to your organs and this includes your uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes. This is important in maintaining their health, which is likely to impact your fertility. Exercise is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle and has obvious links with your weight, which does affect your ability to have children. For more information about how weight affects fertility, check out the section Weight and Fertility.
Too Much Exercise May Be Detrimental to Your Fertility
On the other end of the scale, there is a direct connection between too much exercise and fertility. Too much exercise can affect your body’s hormonal regulation, resulting in a failure to ovulate each month. This can sometimes be seen if your cycle is not regular or if you are missing periods. However, you can still have a regular cycle, but not be ovulating.
Other earlier changes may include a shorter cycle length as a result of lower progesterone levels. Progesterone is important in allowing for implantation of the fertilised egg. These lower levels result in a shortening of the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase) so that you get your period less than 14 days after ovulation occurs.
Women who exercise regularly over long periods of time also alter their levels of the hormones adrenaline and leptin. Adrenaline levels increase, which causes the body to break down stores of body fat. When the stores of fat become too low, oestrogen levels decrease and your periods then stop. With high levels of exercise, the levels of leptin in the body rise. This suppresses your appetite, having a further effect upon your body fat.
And don’t even think about taking anabolic steroids if you want children. Though don’t mix anabolic steroids up with the other types of steroids that doctors prescribe you. If you are on prescription drugs, don’t stop taking them, but do check out the section Prescription Medication and Fertility.
What Is “Too Much” Exercise?
This can vary from woman to woman and as such there are no specific guidelines upon the level or intensity of exercise women should be doing prior to having a baby. It is thought that if the body is having to expend energy healing small injuries from heavy workouts, then this is energy which is directed away from getting pregnant. In addition, if you are not replacing sufficient energy and nutrients through your diet, then this is also going to have an impact in reducing your weight and body fat composition. For more information about how being underweight can affect your fertility, check out the section Underweight and Problems Conceiving.
On balance, if you have a regular cycle then it is unlikely that your workouts are having a detrimental effect upon your fertility.
Should I Change My Exercise Routine When Trying to Conceive?
If you are having regular periods, then it is unlikely that your exercise regime is having an impact upon your fertility and it is therefore safe to continue your current exercise programme. If you are not having regular periods and exercise a lot, then exercise may be affecting your ability to conceive and you may want to consider changing your exercise routine to see if your periods become more regular. If you are unsure, see your doctor.
Should I Avoid Any Particular Sports?
There is no evidence that certain sports are better or worse when it comes to trying to conceive. However, there are certain sports that you may be better off avoiding when you are pregnant. These include any activities which may result in injury to your tummy area; for example, horse riding, skiing, and any contact sports. Not to panic though, this advice relates to pregnant women from the second trimester onwards, so you’ll have plenty of time to change your exercise programme when you need to.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know About Exercise and Fertility?
Your Body Weight
Many people use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to work out if they are the correct weight for their height. However, if you are athletic, BMI can be inaccurate as it does not take into account the higher muscle and bone mass which athletic people tend to have. If you are fortunate enough to be athletic, Body Fat Percentage (BFP) is a more accurate way of finding out if you are the correct weight or not.
BFP is notoriously difficult to work out manually, so it is best done using a BFP scale, which passes an electric current through your body and measures resistance. Most gyms have one of these machines or you can buy your own home machine, though the home versions tend to be less accurate.
Consider a Fitness Device
If you are not used to keeping track of your exercise, then I thoroughly recommend you get a fitness band or fitness clip on device. These nifty little devices will keep a record of how much exercise you do every day and provide a gentle reminder should you spend too long inactive.