Exercise When Trying To Conceive Naturally
Posted by Christina Pistotnik
It’s another New Year and starting a new exercise regimen is usually high on the list of healthy changes people make at the start of the New Year. But what if you are trying to conceive, is it ok to exercise then?
There can be a lot of conflicting advice out there and it can be quite confusing to know what is right when it comes to exercise and trying to conceive. It is completely understandable, because there are different guidelines as to what is safe and healthy, depending on what your current situation is.
For example, recommendations depend on your current level of fitness, Body Mass Index (BMI), whether or not you’re going through IVF or using ovarian stimulating medications, if you have PCOS or if you have suffered from miscarriages in the past.
Therefore, I will try to break it down as best as I can over the coming weeks for different scenarios, starting with exercise when trying to conceive naturally.
Exercise When Trying to Conceive Naturally
As I mentioned, it does depend on your current fitness level. When I am talking to my patients about exercise, I always assess what their current fitness level and regime is.
There is a fine line between too much exercise and too little exercise. Too much high-impact and vigorous exercise has been shown to negatively impact fertility, as it can cause menstrual and ovulation dysfunction (meaning no menstrual/ovulation cycles or irregular cycles in both).
This is mainly because people who are too lean affect their hormones in a way that can stop/delay ovulation and menstruation and this can negatively impact conception (1).
That said, studies have also shown that people who are of average weight (within a healthy BMI) but lead sedentary lifestyles also have lower fertility rates (2).
For those who have a higher BMI and live a sedentary lifestyle, this can negatively impact ovulation as well. This in turn, can decrease chances of conception (3).
I also want to mention that it is more about living a healthier lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and being physically active that will positively affect fertility rates rather than an arbitrary number going down on the scale (4).
So where does this leave you and how much should you exercise?
- If you are exercising 7 days a week, working out longer than 1 hour each day, or are below your BMI:
- You need to cut down your workouts by at least 2 days a week and/or decrease the intensity/amount of time of your workouts and eat higher calories.
- A good gauge for an appropriate level of intensity is that you should be able to talk through workouts.
- Do not push yourself to a point of endorphin release (aka the runner’s high).
- Refrain from going from high-impact to low-impact or no exercise, based on the menstrual cycles (for example pushing yourself to exhaustion with excess exercise before ovulation and then becoming sedentary after ovulation, until taking a pregnancy test). This can also add to the emotional roller coaster of trying to conceive.
- If you are of average or higher BMI and are sedentary (not exercising):
- You should be doing light to moderate exercise at least 3x/week but no more than 5x/week.
- If you are exercising at least 3-5x/week:
- Maintain this and do not exceed 5x/week of exercise, especially if it is higher intensity exercise.
For more advice on how to support your reproductive health and wellbeing, book a free 15-minute phone consultation.
- PMID: 11431132
- PMID: 23963750
- PMID: 26097395
- PMID: 31304974