Exercise for fertility
19th July 2019
There is much discussion on what is the best exercise for fertility. At Adia, we know that a healthy lifestyle is a huge part of preconception care. Exercise is a large part of that! No matter whether you are an athlete or someone that hates the gym, a bit of exercise can really help your chances of conceiving.
Does exercise increase fertility?
Keeping active is a one of the best and most simple ways to increase fertility. Research has found that women who do regular, moderate exercise get pregnant more quickly than those who don’t.
Staying active during your pregnancy can help you to have a healthy pregnancy and birth, reducing problems such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. It can also help to boost your mood and lessen your risk of mental health problems like depression.
Exercise can also help you achieve a healthy BMI. If you are overweight, especially if your weight gain is due to PCOS, it can make getting pregnant harder. Introducing exercise for fertility in to your daily routine, and combining it with a balanced diet, will help you lose weight. However, it’s also important to note that having a BMI that is too low can also negatively impact your fertility. Your doctor will be able to advise you what BMI you should be aiming for.
Whilst it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much exercise impacts fertility, we all know being active will make you healthier. The healthier you are the more chance you have of conceiving naturally!
Can we exercise when trying to conceive?
In most cases you can, and should, exercise whilst trying to conceive. Exercise not only improves your fertility, but it also prepares your body for pregnancy. Getting in to a good fitness routine before getting pregnant will also improve your self esteem.
Body image can unfortunately sometimes be an issue for pregnant women. Exercise can help you feel confident, healthy and happy as your body grows and changes.
Is walking good while trying to conceive?
Walking is a fantastic way to get active when you’re trying to conceive, especially if you’re initiating a fitness routine. Low impact exercise like walking is low risk, but can still get your heart rate up. Investing in a pedometer or fit bit, is a great way to keep you motivated and track your progress.
It’s recommended to be active at least 30 minutes a day, and talking a 10 minute walk three times counts! It’s also easy to incorporate walking in to your daily life. Get off one stop earlier during your commute or walk to the supermarket rather than driving – your steps will soon add up!
Can running cause infertility?
If you are a regular runner then you should be totally fine to continue with your routine when trying to conceive. However, there are cases when exerting yourself and pushing your running limits could impact your fertility.
The key is to keep an eye on your menstrual cycle. If you start to have abnormal cycles or miss periods, you should speak to your doctor about your fitness routine. This can sometimes happen if your tough training causes your BMI to get too low. If your BMI is the low end of twenty or below, it might be advisable to try and put on a little bit of weight.
Women who are running extreme amounts each week, such as athletes or those training for marathons, are occasionally told to reduce the amount their running if it starts to impact their cycle. This ps partly because women who exercise have been shown to have lower progesterone levels in the luteal phase. This is the phase that follows ovulation and prepares the uterine lining for implantation, so is very important for conception.
If you have never run before, but are keen to get fit and healthy ahead of pregnancy, start small and build yourself up. Couch to 5k is a great way to safely and sustainably bring running in to your fitness regime.
Does running affect sperm count?
There are conflicting theories about the impact of running on sperm count. Essentially it comes down to the old adage ‘you can have too much of a good thing’.
On one hand, it seems a certain amount of exercise – running in particular – can increase your sperm count. One recent study shows that men who run for 15 hours or so a week have sperm concentrations up to 73 percent higher than sedentary men. They also have a higher sperm count. The theory goes that regular exercise increases the amount of testosterone the body produces – positively impacting sperm production.
However, there are other studies that imply that too much vigorous exercise can negatively effect sperm health. In the study, men who ran 67 miles or more each week – suffered from lower sperm quality and a 28% drop in testosterone. As with everything when it comes to exercise and fertility, a certain amount is beneficial but never take it too far.
Is it safe to do yoga while trying to conceive?
It is definitely safe to practice yoga whilst you are trying to conceive. Yoga is great for encouraging conception – and there are actually yoga poses for fertility!
As a low impact exercise, yoga is a great way to get active, especially if you are not that sporty. Yoga is not only helpful for the physical side of things, but is great for your mental health. There is a clear link between fertility and stress, so the calming nature of yoga is perfect for those on the journey to motherhood.
Even when you fall pregnant you can still continue your practice. Instructors are well trained to help advise pregnant women of poses that are safe for them to hold whilst carrying a baby.
Three top tips for being more active
Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
Start by doing any moderate activity that will raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. But physical activity doesn’t have to be an exercise class in the gym or a long run. You can keep active by doing anything that will raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and make you feel warmer.
Try getting off the train at an earlier stop, and walking the remaining distance to work or home. Other hobbies and activities such as gardening or dancing count too!
Mix in some strength exercises twice a week (or more!)
Try and work all of the major muscles as you prepare your body for pregnancy – pregnancy puts strain on the body, and you may find it easier to cope with if you are fit, strong and flexible. It has also been shown that labour is easier for women who are active during pregnancy.
Strength exercises might be lifting weights, working with resistance bands, yoga, pilates. To get the health benefits from strength exercises you should do them until you get to the point where you struggle to do any more.
Start to introduce more vigorous activities
This means any exercise that makes you breathe hard and fast, and where you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
Good examples include: jogging or running, aerobics, spinning. A small amount of women who exercise vigorously on most days of the week, such as competitive athletes, may be advised to cut their exercise for fertility to a moderate level if they are having problems getting pregnant.
How much exercise should I do?
Think about how much physical activity you should do in relation to your current exercise routines, as well as your BMI. For example, if you have a high BMI and are planning to get pregnant, exercise may improve chances of conception by helping you lose weight. However, it’s important to make sure you don’t take it too far and become underweight. As mentioned earlier, a BMI that is too low is just as bad for fertility as one that is too high.
If you have always been moderately active – continue to exercise at the same level to stay healthy. And if you’ve not been active before, start to build up your level of activity little by little from now!
Exercise during ovulation
Exercising during ovulation is absolutely fine, and actually probably good for you. Exercising release endorphins which are real stress busters. Endorphins contracts the affects of stress hormone such cortisol. An increase in cortisol can impact the hormones involved in eg release, so keeping stress at bay during ovulation is a great idea. If you want to know when you are ovulating, there are multiple fertile signs you can look out for.
Exercise during IVF
Whilst it is generally ok to work out whilst trying to conceive, the exception to this can be if you are going through IVF.
One study found that women who were active during the process were no more likely to have a successful pregnancy than those who did no exercise. They actually found that intense exercise could negatively impact fertility and the chances of IVF working. The study found that women who worked out more than 4 hours a week were 40% less likely to give birth. They were also twice as likely to experience pregnancy loss or implantation failure.
Some doctors will recommend avoiding exercise completely during certain stages of the IVF process. You may be advised to refrain from working out for a week or so before egg retrieval and up to 10 weeks after embryos transfer.
What should I eat to get pregnant fast?
The most important thing is for you to have a healthy balanced diet. However, there are certain vitamins that have been proven to help boost fertility.
It’s important to increase the amount of vitamin D in your diet, if you’re trying to get pregnant. You can find it in foods including mushrooms, egg yolk and fish. Vitamin D can help symptoms of endometriosis and PCOS, and can regulate your menstrual cycle.
Folic acid is another key element of a preconception diet. This is because it helps protect from birth defects that occur very early in pregnancy. Many women don’t know they’re pregnant for the first few weeks, so it’s important to prepare your body beforehand.
Folic acid, or folate in its naturally occurring form – can be found in leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Many women take folic acid supplements to help support their daily intake.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s worth understanding your period health. Take a short quiz to find out if you might have any of the below common period conditions:
For more information on what to eat when trying to conceive, and lots of other advice and guidance on a healthy preconception lifestyle, join the Adia platform. Adia offers free support from experts, a nutrition programme and plenty of other features including meditation podcasts and at home fertility testing.