WHen You’re trying to start a family, there are many ways to take care of your reproductive health. Among the most useful lifestyle changes is changing your exercise routine.
A large body of research shows that working out regularly can significantly affect fertility. For example, a systematic review of published studies sports medicine 2017 found that 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise per day was associated with a reduced risk of anovulatory infertility. Also called anovulation, it’s when your ovaries don’t release an egg during a menstrual cycle, and it accounts for about 30 percent of female infertility cases.
At the same time, involve rigorous exercise for regular long The Carolinas Fertility Institute reports that overtraining for more than 60 minutes per day can lead to overtraining syndrome, a condition that fatigues your nervous system and increases women’s chances of infertility.
the key? Strike a balance. We talked to reproductive health experts about exercise techniques you can use to boost fertility while working to get pregnant.
Are there any specific exercises that increase fertility?
Whether it’s rowing or Pilates, the best fitness regimen is one you like enough to do consistently. “Engaging in a regular exercise routine can be beneficial for fertility because exercise can help reduce stress levels, aid in weight loss, and improve circulation,” says Alex Robles, MD, of the Columbia University Fertility Center. “Any exercise you find enjoyable is helpful.” It’s less about the type of workout you do and more about making physical activity a constant in your life.
What is the optimal intensity for reproductive health?
As helpful as bringing daily movement into your life can be, exercising repeatedly to the point of exhaustion can actually increase your risk of infertility. A systematic review has been published sports medicine A 2017 study found that seven or more hours of aerobic exercise per week (such as running or swimming) may increase the risk of ovulation problems.
“Extreme exercise can cause negative outcomes in reproductive health,” says Cynthia Murdoch, MD, partner in reproductive endocrinology at Illum Fertility. “Women who exercise excessively may experience amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods) or have a very low body mass index, both of which are bad for fertility.”
Instead, listen to your body and adjust your workouts, stopping before you feel like you’ve done too much.
Make sure you’re fueling any exercise properly
No matter how much you work out, you need to eat enough to fuel each session. Burning more calories than you’re taking in can lead to the female athlete triad: menstrual dysfunction, low energy and decreased bone mineral density.
“The female athlete triad adversely affects fertility by disrupting the hormones necessary for ovulation,” says Robles. “It’s important to make sure women are eating enough calories to support their activity levels.”
What to do if you are undergoing fertility treatment
If you are currently undergoing fertility treatment such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), ask your doctor about their recommendations for exercise during your treatment cycle. They may advise you to avoid high-impact workouts.
“High impact and contact sports during fertility treatments can cause the ovary to rotate its pedicle,” explains Karen Frew, MD, PhD, a fertility specialist at OMA Fertility. “This is referred to as ovarian torsion.” He recommends focusing on low-impact workouts like cycling or walking, and engaging in high-impact activities only when the ovaries are stimulated and of normal size.
Additionally, you may want to lower the intensity. According to a study published in 2016, engaging in vigorous activity for four or more hours per week can reduce IVF success rates. Reproductive Biomedicine Online.
Make exercise a part of a well-rounded strategy
Exercise alone is not a panacea for improving your reproductive health. But maintaining a consistent fitness routine combined with other healthy lifestyle habits — such as proper nutrition, good sleep, managing stress, and avoiding smoking and alcohol — can increase your chances of conceiving.