Exercise for Fertility – Is It Helpful?
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When couples are looking to conceive and have their own baby to start a family, low levels of fertility can be quite a big roadblock in reaching that goal. Right from medical checkups to certain home remedies, a number of suggestions and solutions might be available right in front of you, each one being either better or stranger than the first. However, one conclusive aspect that ties directly to the fertility in women as well as men is the presence of a healthy body. This isn’t restricted to simply following a good nutritive diet, but has a strong link towards how regularly you exercise, which helps in streamlining the metabolism of your body.
Is Exercise Good for Fertility?
If you’re wondering, can exercise help fertility levels rise, there isn’t a definitive study to prove it, but results have shown to be beneficial in this regard. The aspects that govern fertility in women and men tie down to having internal bodily processes functioning at optimal levels. Any long-term changes in diet, lifestyle, and energy could have a lasting effect on fertility.
What Are the Advantages of Exercises on Fertility?
Exercising regularly does have a lot of advantages, all of which benefit the body in one way or the other. There are a few major effects of exercising that indirectly work towards bringing back the lost fertility within you:
1. Improvement in the Quality of Sleep
Sleeping is, of course, essential for our body in necessary amounts, since that is when the body actually begins to work on itself and carry out all the maintenance and repair activities within. Although there is no direct connection between sleeping and fertility, any reduction in getting a good amount of sleep starts manifesting in the body as obesity. Now, obesity and fertility are linked together quite closely, and gaining a lot of unhealthy weight is bound to reduce your chances of conceiving a child. Exercising regularly helps set the body in a good rhythm, allowing sleep to set in at the right times, and giving you deep unbroken sleep cycles.
2. Reduction in Unhealthy Weight
Being overweight or even obese does affect your body in numerous ways. Men are known to have poor sperm count and motility as a result of that, whereas obese women are at a much higher risk. Obese women do tend to face numerous problems in conceiving a child, as well as complications throughout pregnancy, some of which might even result in defects during birth or a miscarriage. Burning any excess fat is a necessity in this regard, which can be very well achieved by opting for cardio-based exercises or bodyweight training, making you lose your weight in a healthy way.
3. Lowered Stress
Mental health plays a key role in maintaining your physical health. Any amount of undue anxiety and continued stress can impact your body in various ways, one of which is also a reduction in fertility. At times, this effect is not direct, and is usually a result of various activities that are undertaken to reduce stress, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, bingeing on fast food, drug use, and so on. Exercise helps in releasing various hormones in your body that make you feel better, reduce your stress levels, and consequently make your body better.
How Does Excessive Exercise Affect Fertility?
Many people are generally surprised to know that excessive exercise and infertility have a strong connection between them. As beneficial as exercising appropriately might be for health, there is a strong correlation between people who overdo exercises in a strenuous manner, and increased levels of infertility within them.
1. Effects on Women
In women, studies have indeed shown that low levels of exercises have resulted in infertility, especially in those suffering from obesity. But, women who have been undertaking strenuous exercises regularly, or exercising until they were completely exhausted, have had increased infertility levels as well. Some of the major reasons for that are as follows:
- Increased Cortisol Levels
One of the key observations that various researches and studies have noted is that when women undergo intense exercise regimens for extended durations, the biological balance of various hormones undergoes a change. Primary amongst it is a severe reduction in the level of thyroid hormones within the body. This is quite counterproductive for health, since thyroid works towards increasing the metabolic activity within the body, and a reduction in those hormones would not be beneficial in that regard.
Following the thyroid changes, there is a marked rise in the levels of cortisol as well. A combination of both these effects results in an undue stress on the adrenal system of the woman’s body. Prolonged exposure to such stress changes the core method of how it is handled biologically, which can very well manifest in terms of reduced fertility and hormonal imbalance.
- Low Body Fat
There is good body fat and bad body fat. This is pretty much the reason why most women choose to exercise intensely, in order to burn their excess body fat as quickly as possible and be in a healthy shape to handle their pregnancy. However, studies have observed that such women have such low levels of body fat that it works in reducing the overall fertility in the body. Intense exercises and low body fat levels also result in irregularities of menstruation and ovulation, which is a result of low estrogen levels as well. Both of these are necessary to be in a proper rhythm to conceive a child.
2. Effects on Men
While most men exercise to improve sperm motility and overall health, the intense pursuit of achieving quick fitness and a muscular body works against their favour, and leaves most men visually fit but internally infertile.
- Causes Sperm Defects
In the pursuit of achieving great sperm health, increased motility, and overall better sperm quality, undergoing intense exercise regimens have shown to output the contrary in such men. The reason for that is pretty straightforward, and is directly linked to body temperature. Exercising always pushes up the temperature within the body’s core, which also is elevated in the regions of sperm production. However, sperm production is optimal only when that area is significantly cooler as compared to the body. This then results in reduced sperm count instead of elevating it.
- Decreased Luteinizing Hormone and Testosterone
Another important reason behind the reduction in sperm count of men who exercise intensely for long durations is the reduced levels of two primary hormones, namely testosterone and the luteinizing hormone. It has been believed that exercise boosts testosterone, but intense exercise actually cuts it down. Most of the times, these can bounce back to normal once the regimen is scaled down to normalcy.
How to Know if You Are Exercising Too Much
Once you have an answer to the question, can too much exercise affect fertility, you can start keeping a lookout for certain signs, which can indicate that the exercise regimen you adhere to needs to be scaled down:
1. Soreness and Fatigue
Your own body will start giving you the right signs if you push yourself beyond the healthy limit. Exercising is usually rejuvenating, but strenuous exercise will cause your body to feel sore, lead you to have broken sleep, or even result in performing poorly in your exercises. These are all results of stressing out your body beyond its capacity.
2. Training for Extended Hours
Depending on your age and fitness, there is a stipulated amount of time one should exercise daily. But most strenuous exercisers tend to undertake a lot of training, which could last even for more than an hour on a daily basis. This is not healthy, and can affect the body in a variety of unintended ways.
3. Improper Menstrual Cycle
A missed period might make you think that you have gotten pregnant. However, periods can be missed or even delayed as a result of intense exercises. The hormone levels within the body fluctuate a lot, which disturbs the natural rhythm of menstruation, giving rise to such results. These also affect your ovulation, consequently reducing the chances of conceiving a child.
Best Fertility Boosting Exercises
Knowing the right exercise to increase fertility is essential in helping you maintain your health without impacting your chances of conception.
1. Cardio exercises
This includes walking, jogging, aerobics, dance, etc. These can increase circulation in the body. Good flow of blood is essential for a healthy pregnancy. You can start with 15 minutes of brisk walking or jogging each day and gradually increase it to 30 minutes.
2. Strength training
Lifting weights, within your comfort, can help build muscle mass in the body and enhance stamina. Try moderate strength training, preferably with a trainer three or four days in a week.
3. Stretching and flexibility
Always perform stretching exercise before working out. These will increase your flexibility, relieve tension and lower the chances of any injury while working out.
This may not be as intense as any other cardio exercises, but yoga is absolutely essential to help maintain a level of flexibility in your body, as well as work towards reducing the stress and anxiety, boosting your mental health quite effectively.
Which Exercises Should Be Avoided?
While adopting an exercise for fertility improvements, there needs to be an awareness of the exercises one should stay away from, to not impact it in the worst of ways.
- Any kind of intense running or gymnastics that is taxing for the body
- Exercising for long durations, often more than an hour
- Opting for boot camp exercises, which are often very intense
- Sprinting and running for long distances on a daily basis
- Exercising throughout the week without any day for recovery
- Undertaking core strength exercises while you are ovulating
- Adopting hot yoga, which can raise body temperatures and affect fertility
Should Women Exercise after IVF or IUI?
While crafting your fertility exercise plan, it is best to get your doctor’s advice regarding it, especially if you have opted for IVF or IUI. Most of the times, doctors tend to ask women to avoid exercises since it might affect the implantation of the embryo or retrieval of the eggs. That being said, having a light morning or evening walk, or simple yoga or breathing exercises can help you feel better with minimal effort.
Combining exercise and fertility treatment seems to be a strange way of connecting things together. Knowing how well linked both of them are, making the appropriate changes in your lifestyle is quite necessary. Adopting the right actions can help you maintain your health while keeping your fertility at a high level, too.