When it comes to fertility and exercise, some activities can be beneficial, some harmful
As a fertility specialist, I often get asked about the relationship between exercise and fertility. The research on this topic has had mixed results, with some studies finding a positive relationship and others finding no relationship or even a negative relationship.
However, the overall consensus among experts is that moderate exercise can be beneficial for fertility, while intense exercise can potentially have negative effects.
Benefits of moderate exercise while trying to conceive
What makes moderate exercise beneficial for fertility? For starters, it can help improve insulin sensitivity, which can be especially important for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Exercise can also help reduce stress and regulate menstrual cycles, which can have a positive impact on fertility.
You shouldn’t overlook the fact that regular exercise can help boost mood and overall wellness for both soon-to-be mothers or fathers. Being in good health and good spirits can affect fertility directly and indirectly.
Finding balance: the dos and don’ts of fertility and exercise
When it comes to exercise and fertility, finding the right balance is key. It’s important to consider the type, intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts to ensure that you are supporting your fertility goals.
If trying to get pregnant, here are some dos and don’ts to consider.
- Engage in moderate exercise. This can include activities such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling or yoga. These types of exercises can help improve insulin sensitivity, reduce stress and regulate menstrual cycles, all of which can support fertility.
- Kegels are good exercises for women trying to conceive. Squatting exercises are good to strengthen core muscles and the pelvic floor.
- Find an exercise routine that works for you. It’s important to find an exercise routine that is enjoyable, which will make it easier to maintain as a habit in the long run.
- Talk with your doctor about any concerns before beginning a new fitness routine. It’s important that any exercise program is adjustable according to each individual and their overall health.
- Modify routines when becoming pregnant and adjust throughout stages of pregnancy.
- Overdo it with intense exercise. While moderate exercise can be beneficial for fertility, intense exercise, such as long-distance running, high-intensity interval training and frequent long-distance cycling for men, can potentially have negative effects on fertility. This is because intense exercise can decrease sperm count, disrupt menstrual cycles and affect hormone levels, all of which reduce the chances to conceive.
- Neglect other aspects of health. While exercise is important, it’s just one aspect of overall health. Be sure to also focus on getting enough sleep, managing stress, eating a healthy diet and maintaining other good lifestyle habits to support fertility.
Exercise and pregnancy: what to keep in mind
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women engage in light to moderate physical activity for 150 minutes a week, spread out over five days. Exercise can help combat fatigue, improve overall strength and stamina, enhance coordination and balance, reduce mental stress and anxiety, support healthy weight gain throughout pregnancy, and help prepare the body for delivery.
If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, it’s important to be mindful of the type and intensity of exercise you engage in. In general, it is safe for pregnant women to continue with their usual moderate exercise routine. Some safe activities for pregnant women to consider include walking, swimming and water workouts, stationary biking, yoga and Pilates classes (with modifications as needed), low-impact aerobics, and strength training with appropriate weight.
There are some exercises that may not be suitable for pregnant women, such as those that involve high impact or involve lying on your back for an extended period of time. It is generally recommended to avoid these types of exercises during pregnancy.
Women who are pregnant should also avoid any contact sports after their first trimester. Participating in basketball, soccer, softball or other contact sports comes with a higher likelihood of getting knocked in the stomach.
After giving birth, exercise can help to improve postpartum recovery and promote weight loss. However, it is important to consult with a doctor before resuming exercise (generally 6-8 weeks after giving birth).
Get moving for a healthy pregnancy and beyond
Finding the right balance when it comes to exercise and fertility is key. Whether you are trying to get pregnant, are currently pregnant or have recently given birth, there are plenty of safe and beneficial activities to choose from. Just be sure to listen to your body and talk to your healthcare provider before starting or continuing any exercise program. Embrace the power of movement and stay active throughout the journey to parenthood.