Will exercise hurt my chances of getting pregnant?

It’s interesting how much our mentality may shift when we start trying to conceive. Many prior routine practices start feeling sketchy for fertility (like that next cup of coffee, retinol cream, or happy hour). But one that inspires perhaps the most angst is exercise. 

But exercise is good, right?

Exercise & Fertility: Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Multiple studies support many benefits of physical activity. It’s been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease, abnormal cholesterol, and anxiety or depression. It may decrease stress, which when chronic may increase inflammation in the body. There is even emerging evidence showing that exercise can increase our brain’s plasticity.

In general, the CDC recommends both aerobic and strength training activities. Ideally, this means a total of 150 minutes weekly (for example, 30 minutes 5 times weekly) of moderate intensity exercise plus 2 days of weights. But if your new work from home setup has significantly decreased your daily steps, not to worry. Starting out with even 5-10 minutes of moving can help!

So, does this change when I’m trying to get pregnant?

Exercise & Fertility: Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Well, it’s a complex answer, depending on multiple factors. 

Weight

  • Women who are overweight or obese (a body mass index of 25 or more) have fertility benefits with any exercise. 
  • Underweight women (a BMI of less than 18.5) need to take care with exercise, since this low weight may already impact fertility and menstrual cycles. 
  • The data are not quite as clear in normal weight ovulatory women. It does appear that other factors come into play.  

Intensity of exercise

  • Moderate intensity (defined as brisk walking, leisurely biking, golfing, or gardening, for example) appeared to have benefits in women trying to conceive regardless of weight.
  • Vigorous intensity (like aerobic classes) could possibly even contribute to a longer time to pregnancy in one Danish study.
  • The data are still controversial, though, with another prospective study in U.S. women suggesting that increased exercise could decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility.

Type of exercise

  • The best type is one you enjoy (running is torture to me, but I’ll happily go to jiu jitsu). 

Fertility treatments

  • This usually doesn’t impact exercise recommendations, but in vitro fertilization cycles may cause the ovaries to become really enlarged. This may increase certain uncommon risks, like the ovary twisting on its tethering or a fluid imbalance in the body. 

Concurrent conditions

  • There may be added benefits with certain conditions (like PCOS) or increased restrictions with others (heartbeat irregularities, for example). Always check with your doctor if you’re concerned. 
Exercise & Fertility: Photo by Thao Le Hoang on Unsplash

Ultimately for most people, the pros of exercising, especially moderately, outweigh the cons. And if there’s any way to do it in nature, you’ll be synergizing those benefits, too. So, run (or in my case, chokehold?) to the nearest open area to reap the rewards of physical activity.

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