Exercise And Fertility: Can They Affect Each Other?
There are a lot of questions surrounding the relationship between exercise and fertility. While it’s well-documented that exercise is generally good for you, does it affect a couple’s chances of achieving pregnancy? And, perhaps more specifically, how does it affect women who have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)?
Exercise can help improve a variety of health conditions, but in regards to fertility the most important of these conditions would be obesity, which has been known to affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. If you have been diagnosed with a disease that affects your reproductive organs, however, it may be worth your time to understand how much, or how little exercise you should incorporate when trying to conceive.
Additionally, it’s just as important to understand how exercise can affect a man’s fertility – whether too much or too little exercise can result in erectile dysfunction (ED), or low sperm count.
Below, we’ll provide a closer examination of the role exercise may play in the reproductive cycle, and what level of exercise is enough for couples who are trying to conceive.
How Does Exercise Affect Fertility?
The answer to this question is different for both men and women, although some research would suggest that it has positive effects for each gender.
- The impact of exercise on women’s fertility
One study followed more than 17,000 women who did not have a history of infertility. The results indicated that women who ate balanced meals and exercised for at least 30-minutes per day were 69% less likely to develop an ovulatory disorder that results in infertility. Therefore, this study suggests that fertility may be preventable with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
In addition, women who have been diagnosed with PCOS and/or have irregular periods typically have higher body fat percentages. Women who lose body fat with regular exercise may see an increase in ovulation.
On the other hand, too much exercise can decrease a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Seven or more hours of aerobic exercise per week can increase issues with ovulation. And four or more hours of strenuous exercise per week can decrease IVF success rates.
- The impact of exercise on men’s fertility
There is not as much research into the impact of exercise on men’s fertility. Most studies show that exercise has little to no impact on sperm count or sperm hotality. However, one study did find that men who rode a bicycle for more than five hours per week had a lower sperm count and motility.
That being said, a sedentary lifestyle can put a man at higher risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes – all of which can make it difficult to conceive.
What Sort of Fertility Exercises Can Help Support Couples Who Wish to Conceive?
If both partners eat healthy diets and have a low body fat percentage, about 30-minutes of moderate exercise (i.e. walking or yoga) per day is plenty. This will help keep men and women in shape and lower their risks of a variety of diseases.
During moderate exercises your breath will get deeper and stronger, but you should not feel out of breath. If you are unable to talk during your workout, you are exercising too hard. You should also try to keep your heart rate in a moderate zone. Wearing a fitness tracker around your wrist can help you monitor your heart rate.
If one or both partners have a high body fat percentage, 30-minutes of vigorous exercise (exercise that increases the heart rate) may be required to increase the chances of getting pregnant. Vigorous exercise will help lower the body fat percentage and risk of disease.
You will know that you are exercising vigorously if you are unable to talk through your workout. It’s important to note that what seems vigorous to one person may not seem only moderate to another. It all depends on your body type, how often you get your heart rate up, and how much weight you are able to lift.
There aren’t necessarily exercises that are best for fertility or exercises that will decrease fertility. The best fertility exercises are those that feel good for your body and that you would be happy to do a few times per week.
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