In most cases, when a woman is planning a pregnancy, there is a tendency to make changes in her lifestyle in hopes of conceiving, having a healthy pregnancy and a successful delivery. Lifestyle changes are often made and habits that do not benefit the pregnancy are sacrificed, such as smoking, use of recreational drugs and drinking alcohol. Some go as far as stopping the intake of caffeine. Other lifestyle changes include a better diet; eating more fruits and vegetables and having a balanced meal. These are all beneficial for the general health of the mother-to-be, but what about exercise?
Studies have found that moderate and regular exercise is beneficial for fertility and helps increase the pregnancy rate for those who are going through assisted reproductive technology (going through treatment for fertility or conception). Exercise was shown to reduce the risk of infertility due to ovulation (release of eggs) problems. Even for obese patients (which is a risk factor for infertility) who exercise regularly, they had better chances of pregnancy compared to those who are sedentary.
There is also evidence that low to moderate exercise increases the rates of implantation (process where the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus/womb to continue growing into a baby) and live birth rates (baby is alive at birth). The recommended exercise in the study is one hour of exercise three times per week.
Although exercise has been proven to help with fertility, high intensity exercises were found to reduce fertility (reduced implantation, reduced live birth rates) and increased pregnancy loss. Studies showed that vigorous exercise (exercising daily or to exhaustion) is associated with lower fertility rates. This is the same case with male patients. High intensity exercise was found to reduce male fertility.
Exercises that are found to be best for women trying to conceive are:
- Brisk walking: five times a week, approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Yoga: 1 hour sessions, 2-3 times a week
- Zumba, aerobics: 2-3times a week
- Bicycle riding leisurely
- Light jogging
Exercises that should be avoided are:
- Core strength training such as core Pilates
- Exercising 7 days a week for more than 45 minute
- Running for many miles every day
- Extreme training exercises
- Exercises over an hour long
Evidence has shown that moderate exercise benefits fertility while high intensity and frequency exercises may reduce fertility. This should be recommended to men and women who are looking to increase chances of pregnancy. Guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most or preferably all days. For individuals who are overweight or obese, achieving and maintaining a modest weight loss may improve fertility.
- The role of exercise in improving fertility, quality of life and emotional well-being. Pre-conception health special interest group. The Fertility Society of Australia. 2015. http://www.fertilitysociety.com.au/wp-content/uploads/FSA-The-role-of-exercise-in-improving-fertility-2016.pdf. Accessed 2/4/2017.
- Barton-Schuster D. Is exercise good or bad for fertility. http://natural-fertility-info.com/exercise-good-or-bad-for-fertility.html. Accessed 2/4/2017.