In the old days, if a woman was having fertility problems, doctors would often advise her to stop exercising. The thinking was that avoiding overexertion might help with conception. These days, doctors know that exercise can be an important component in fertility, particularly for women who are obese. While the effect of exercise is different for every woman, a healthy dose may actually increase your chances of getting pregnant.
The Benefits of Exercise
Exercise has a number of health benefits for the average person, but for the woman trying to conceive, exercise may help eliminate, or at least manage, some of the causes of infertility:
- Reduced stress - Stress not only affects your overall health, it can also affect your ability to conceive. Rachel Gurevich, About's Infertility Guide, suggests that while stress doesn't directly cause infertility, it can push us towards unhealthy behaviors that contribute to infertility like unhealthy eating, drinking alcohol and smoking.
Exercisers tend to manage stress better and have less stress than non-exercisers. More about workouts for stress relief.
How Much Is Too Much?
While some studies have shown that exercise can help fertility, other studies show that too much vigorous exercise may lower fertility.
But here's the rub: There are no specific exercise guidelines for women who are trying to conceive. Of course, we have general exercise guidelines, we have guidelines for people trying to lose weight, for seniors and even during pregnancy. So, where does that leave you if you want to conceive?
If You Already Exercise
Of course, you should talk to your doctor if you exercise and are having fertility issues; there are some signs to look for that may tell you if you're doing too much:
- Missed periods - Exercising too much may cause irregular periods or missed periods altogether. If you've always been irregular, this may not be due to exercise, but if you experience changes in your cycle and you exercise at high intensities, you may want to talk to your doctor about cutting back on your workouts.
- Exercising more than seven hours a week - Some studies have shown that working out for more than seven hours a week may affect fertility.
- Signs of overtraining - Overtraining can put extra stress on the body. Even if you still have your period, look for signs of overtraining such as fatigue, soreness that won't go away, insomnia or poor performance.
If You Want to Start Exercising
If you're a beginning exerciser, talk to your doctor about a safe level of exercise for your fitness level. If you're not sure where to start, consider hiring a personal trainer for a customized program that allows you to ease into exercise. You can also use these resources to learn more about how to set up your own regimen:
- Exercise for Beginners - The Basics
- Setting Up a Complete Program
- Six Weeks to Fitness for Absolute Beginners
- 12 Weeks to Weight Loss
- 30-Day Quick Start for Beginners
- Beginner Strength Training
- Beginner Cardio
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