Exercise and Fertility

Posted on Posted in Fitness
Photo: Zeus Fitness
Photo: Zeus Fitness

Exercise and fertility will vary from individual to individual; there is no “one size fits all”.  What is recommended for one person may be almost the opposite of what we would recommend for someone else. It is important to be aware of how exercise can influence fertility.  Too much or too little can really impact your body’s natural fertility which can prevent you from conceiving.  According to Preconception Weekly, exercise and fertility are linked, but the relationship is not always straightforward.  Exercise can help you stay fit and may increase your chances at conception in some cases, too much exercise can actually contribute to infertility.

Exercise-Induced Infertility

Sometimes exercise can be a cause of infertility.  Men and women who exercise vigorously may be hurting their chances of conceiving a child.

Over-Exercising

Men who over-exercise can cause the internal temperature of a man’s testicles to rise. Typically your testicles remain at a temperature of 96 degrees.  If your testicles become warmer than this sperm begin to die leading to a low sperm count.

Photo: Live Science
Photo: Live Science

Men who over-exercise and become underweight can also experience low sperm motility and poor sperm morphology.  Being underweight creates a shortage of testosterone, which affects sperm production as well.

Biking is a particular concern in terms of male-factor infertility both because of the tight-fitting training clothes worn during the sport, as well as the constant, prolonged contact between the saddle and the testicles.

Infertility and Obesity

A study found that overweight men who have a body mass index of 26 to 28 (approx 175-205lbs and 5’9” frame) were 50% more apt to be infertile than men at a healthy weight. Obese men had a greater risk.  Excess fat may increase the temperature of the scrotum, reducing sperm quality, and also raises the estrogen level, lowering sperm counts.  If you’re 5’9”, a male should aim for a BMI of 19 -25 or 130 -170lbs.

Benefits of Exercise

-Helps to maintain weight and to lower body fat levels
-Better sleep
-Helps with depression and anxiety
-Gives you more energy
-Improves your mood
-Decreases risk of diabetes
-Reduces risk of heart disease
-Increases flexibility and posture
-Strengthens your muscles
-Builds and maintains strong bones
-Reduces backaches, *constipation, bloating and swelling

Exercise and Stress

Trying to get pregnant can be very stressful, both physically and mentally.  Couples get extremely caught up with fertility treatments, such as IVF or IUI, and other parts of their lives tend to suffer as a result.  Unfortunately this is not a good thing when you are trying to get pregnant.

While stress may not be directly related to infertility, it can push us towards unhealthy behaviors. Stress can make it difficult to be intimate with your partner.  It can trigger other health problems, such as cardiovascular problems and depression.  It can interfere with sperm health and motility.

Exercise can be a great stress reliever and is very helpful in restoring hormonal balance and fertility.  Exercise releases endorphins, which encourages your body to better deal with pain and stress.  Exercisers tend to manage stress better and have less stress than non-exercisers.

When Should I Begin an Exercise Program?
If you are in good health you can begin a gentle to moderate program at anytime.  You should start exercising slowly and gradually.  Consider walking or swimming 15-30 minutes 3X/wk.  If it is difficult to carry on a conversation slow down.

Photo: Public Domain Pictures
Photo: Public Domain Pictures

How Often Should I Exercise?

Exercising 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week can stimulate fertility and help you conceive.

What Types of Exercise are Recommended to Increase Fertility?

There has been debate over the years about whether or not certain exercises can actually increase your fertility.  To date, there is no evidence that one form of exercise works better than others. Other types of exercises recommended are walking, swimming and yoga.

At What Intensity Can I Exercise?

Everyone has different levels of exercise that may or may not interfere with fertility.  Weight should be monitored, if weight loss occurs, caloric intake should be increased; if weight gain occurs re-evaluate your intake.  It is not recommended to have rapid weight loss or gain.

Those that exercise more than 7 hours of intense workouts may want to cutback.  Consider replacing some of your workouts with gently yoga or leisure walking.  Serious athletes may have to add more calories to their diet and reduce the intensity and amount of exercise.

If a man has an established exercise program prior to treatment, that level may be maintained and continued with some minor modifications and reasonable precautions.  

There is no magic bullet – some men will still get the maddening diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”.  At the very least, making healthful changes in the hope of improving your chances of a baby is bound to pay off in other ways.

Snowballs are the perfect fitness companion to keep the boys cool while exercising.

Read more of Snowballs fitness tips and motivation.

Source: Carolina Conceptions

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