Infertility and Exercise
Effect of Exercise on Infertility
Exercise is a necessity in increasing fertility with men and women. First, exercise helps to reduce insulin resistance by allowing the muscles to more efficient in taking in glucose, helping to keep blood sugar levels stable. Exercise also lowers stress hormones which can get in the way of fertility. It improves blood flow to the pelvic area so that the uterus and ovaries have a strong oxygen supply, improves immune function by lowering inflammation (which can interfere with implantation of the fertilized egg), helps you have more energy and normalizes circadian rhythm so that you sleep more soundly. As fitness improves, so do energy levels and mood, contributing to a more fertile you.
How to Use Exercise
Robert Greene, M.D. provides some specific principles on fertility and exercise:
Principle One: Start a balanced exercise program which should incorporate aerobic activity, strength-building exercises, and flexibility training. If you are currently inactive, it typically takes two to three months to achieve a healthy level of fitness.
- Aerobic Activity: The ideal goal is to perform aerobic activity for 40 to 60 minutes per day. Those that are new to aerobic exercise, should start with 20 minutes a day and increase to 30, or it can broken up into 2 or 3 20-minute sessions.
- Strength Training is important for building muscles and strengthening bones. To maintain your muscle strength, it should be done twice a week, allowing two days of rest in between workouts. To build muscle, it should be done three times a week. Types of strength-training include:
- Free weights
- Resistance Bands
- Gym Machines
- Fitness Balls
- Isometric (Pushing against a stationery object)
- Power Yoga
- Push-ups, sit-ups
Flexibility and balance improves the range of motion of joints and muscles to help your coordination and agility. Activities that promote balance and flexibility include:
Principle Two: Activate your Lifestyle by staying active even in your “downtime”. A study of a group of students that were given 1000 extra calories a day found that the students that were very active did not gain weight. In this case, active is defined by informal everyday activities such as standing, fidgeting, or just walking around. Some suggestions for burning these extra calories without really trying are:
- Avoid sitting too much. Even when you are talking on the phone, you can get a headset and walk around your office.
- Park a little further away when you go to a store or out and about so that you can give yourself a little extra activity.
- Fidget when you are sitting at your desk or when you are sitting in your car.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator to burn 5 to 10 calories per flight of stairs.
- Good posture such as sitting up straight burns more calories as it requires your body to engage core muscles.
- Take an after-dinner stroll so that your calories will be stored in the muscles rather than your fat cells.
Principle Three: Cut back on excessive exercising. Studies have shown a relationship with vigorous exercise and fertility issues. Some warning signs of excessive exercise are sleep disturbances, prolonged soreness, chronic muscle soreness, missed menstrual cycles or an elevated resting heart rate. Even if you are not exhibiting these symptoms but suspect that you are overdoing it, here are some ways to cut back:
- Limit vigorous exercise such as running or aerobics to three times a week.
- If you are missing the workout frequency, try strength training or power yoga
- Give your muscles a break so that they can get a chance to rest and regenerate.
Principle Four: Create a longer lasting change so that exercise becomes a habit. Some suggestions for creating this type of change are:
- Try a new activity. Researchers have found that the brain’s pleasure center lights up when you engage in a new activity
- Listen to music during exercise to pick up your pace (pick songs with a fast beat) and help the time to pass more quickly
- Seek out a fitness trainer or fitness buddy to help you stay accountable and motivated. A fitness pro can also help start you off with an exercise routine that can help you achieve your fitness goals.
Side Effects and Warnings
It is important to pick a type of exercise and durations that are compatible with your physical health. If you have a serious health condition, consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.
A health condition or injury may prevent you from engaging in certain types of exercise such as jogging or bike riding but walking. Gentler forms of movement such as stretching or yoga may still be safe and beneficial options.