Movement Matters: The Role of Exercise in Optimizing Fertility
What are the positive impacts of Movement & Exercise on fertility?
First, let’s take a look at the two most common pitfalls of movement while on the fertility journey. Over-exercise and under-exercise. That may seem overly simple, but really what this means is there is no one-size-fits-all for exercise for fertility. The most important thing is, you move during your day. This can look like many things, not just time you set aside for things like going to the gym, playing sports, or running. These activities can all be great, but we have to think about the rest of our days as well - whether that movement is sitting at a desk, or perhaps an active job like retail, movement during the time that isn’t set aside, can add up and make a huge difference for health on many levels. Think about a standing desk option, a seat that uses a yoga ball or wobble base, or any other way to incorporate moving your body in a sitting job.
Let’s talk about the known benefits of exercise on fertility in males and females. While it's important to note that fertility is a complex issue influenced by various factors, including medical conditions and individual differences, this is what we see in experience and in research::
- Improved hormonal balance: Exercise can help regulate hormonal levels, such as reducing insulin resistance and balancing sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Maintaining optimal hormone levels is essential for proper ovulation and overall reproductive function.
- Enhanced blood circulation: Regular physical activity increases blood flow throughout the body, including the reproductive organs. Improved blood circulation promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the ovaries and uterus, which can optimize their function.
- Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight is important for fertility. Regular exercise, combined with a balanced diet, can help manage body weight and reduce the risk of obesity or being underweight. Both extremes can adversely affect fertility by disrupting hormone production and menstrual regularity.
- Stress reduction: Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve overall mental well-being. High levels of stress can negatively impact fertility by disrupting hormone balance and menstrual regularity. Engaging in activities like yoga, meditation, or aerobic exercises can help reduce stress levels and promote reproductive health.
- Enhanced ovulation: Regular physical activity can enhance regular ovulation, which is crucial for fertility. Women with irregular or absent ovulation may experience difficulties in conceiving. Exercise can help regulate the menstrual cycle, increasing the chances of ovulation and successful conception.
- Increased energy levels: Engaging in regular exercise can boost energy levels and improve overall stamina. This increased energy can positively impact sexual function and desire, promoting a healthy sexual relationship and improving the chances of conception.
- Improved psychological well-being: Infertility can be emotionally challenging for individuals and couples. Exercise is known to release endorphins, which are "feel-good" hormones that can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and combat symptoms of depression. By enhancing psychological well-being, exercise can contribute to a positive mindset during the fertility journey.
It’s important to mention paying attention to how you feel after you exercise. If you feel totally wiped out by the activity you chose it’s probably good to step down the intensity until your body is ready for it. There is one amazing exercise that almost everyone can access and benefit from walking! It’s the original human exercise, and our bodies love it. Most of the benefits above are completely accessible just from a 20-minute walk a day! If you find you can’t build up the intensity of exercise - and this isn’t to say we recommend regular intense exercise, we don’t! - it’s important to work with someone who can help you identify the reason.
Studies for reference:
- Nurses' Health Study: A study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal in 2009 analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study II, which followed over 3,600 women. The study found that women who engaged in vigorous exercise had a significantly lower risk of ovulatory disorder infertility. The researchers suggested that regular exercise may help improve fertility by regulating hormonal levels and reducing insulin resistance.
- Effects of exercise on reproductive function: A review published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation in 2019 examined the impact of exercise on female reproductive function. The review concluded that regular physical activity has a positive influence on reproductive health by improving hormonal balance, increasing blood flow to reproductive organs, and reducing stress levels.
- Effects of exercise on male fertility: Several studies have explored the impact of exercise on male fertility. One study published in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online in 2012 analyzed data from 231 healthy men and found that moderate physical activity was associated with higher semen volume and sperm concentration. Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018 indicated that regular exercise may have a positive effect on sperm quality, including sperm concentration and motility.
- Yoga and fertility: Some studies have examined the potential benefits of yoga for fertility. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in 2011 investigated the effects of a 10-week yoga program on women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). The study found that women who participated in the yoga program had higher pregnancy rates compared to those who did not. Yoga may help reduce stress, improve blood flow, and enhance overall well-being, which can positively impact fertility.
- Weight and fertility: Numerous studies have established a connection between weight and fertility. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet is important for optimizing fertility. Excess body weight or being underweight can disrupt hormone levels and menstrual regularity, leading to fertility issues. Regular exercise, along with proper nutrition, can help achieve a healthy weight and improve fertility outcomes.
Tips on Movement & Exercise to optimize fertility
- Exercise is Bioindividual: Get professional help in getting started, They can provide personalized recommendations based on your individual health, medical history, and fertility goals.
- Aim for moderate exercise: Engage in moderate-intensity exercises that raise your heart rate and make you slightly breathless. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing. Avoid excessive or intense exercise, as it may have a negative impact on fertility.
- Regularity is key: Strive for consistency in your exercise routine. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, spread out over several days. Regular exercise promotes hormonal balance and overall well-being.
- Include strength training: Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to build lean muscle mass. This can help improve metabolism and support weight management. Focus on exercises that target major muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and weightlifting.
- Find enjoyable activities: Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle. It could be dancing, yoga, Pilates, swimming, or team sports. Enjoying your workouts increases adherence and makes exercise a more positive experience.
- Mind-body practices: Consider incorporating mind-body practices like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. These activities can help reduce stress levels, promote relaxation, and improve overall mental well-being.
- Balance and variety: Maintain a balanced exercise routine that includes a variety of activities. This helps engage different muscle groups, prevents boredom, and reduces the risk of overuse injuries. Mix cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises like stretching or yoga.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body's signals. If you experience pain, discomfort, or any unusual symptoms during or after exercise, modify your routine or consult with a healthcare professional. It's important to exercise within your comfort zone and avoid excessive strain.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated. Proper hydration is essential for overall health and reproductive function.
- Supportive clothing: Wear comfortable and supportive clothing and footwear suitable for your chosen activities. Proper gear can enhance performance and minimize the risk of injury.
Movement and exercise can have positive impacts on fertility. However, it's important to strike a balance and consult with healthcare professionals to determine an appropriate exercise regimen based on individual needs and health conditions. While studies provide insights into the potential benefits, individual responses do vary, and a holistic approach that includes other factors like diet, sleep, stress management, and healthy habits is essential for optimizing fertility.