To Exercise Or Not To Exercise, That Is The Fertility Question.
Research and experts alike are all over the board on the topic of exercise and fertility. But we ladies are all different, so one blanket statement on the topic will certainly not suffice. Below, I break down my recommendation for
those gals that define themselves as Type-A personalities with highly active lifestyles
those that are more laid back about their commitment to exercise
and those going through Assisted Reproductive Techniques like IUIs or IVF
The GO-GO GET 'EM Girl:
If you're a busy modern woman who feels that working out is a necessary way to manage your stress, then, in terms of exercise, I say keep on keepin' on girl. But add an asterisk to the end of that sentence (*). Ditch your Barry's Bootcamp or Bikrahm Yoga for moderate exercise like pilates or a dance class.
Why get off the high intensity train ? Because research has shown that exercising to exhaustion is associated with 2.3 times the odds of fertility problems versus low intensity. Strenuous exercise that burns more calories than are taken in through food can trigger the hypothalamus, a gland in the brain that regulates body processes, to slow or stop releasing gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), and throw off the cascading effect of other hormones needed in the process of successful fertilization.
If you're an runner, I say no more than TWO miles a day. You heard right, TWO MILES ONLY. If you must log more, add more walking miles. You don't have to give up exercise but you need to seriously reduce the intensity of the activities you choose.
The ESTROGEN GAL
Listen, we all know that sometimes exercise can go out the door when you're stressed, busy, and overwhelmed. And with that, you may carry some extra curves on your bodacious bod. We don't have to define it as a certain BMI or as "overweight" or "obese," because lets be real: we all know when we are carrying a little extra weight.
So be honest with yourself and if you think that your weight doesn't feel right for your natural body type then maybe you fall into the category of The Estrogen Gal, and would benefit from more exercise in your life. I call her the Estrogen gal because about 1/3 of a woman’s estrogen is produced in fat cells. The more pounds your carry, the more estrogen you produce. And studies have shown that hormones secreted by the pituitary gland and involved in reproduction are negatively affected by increased peripheral estrogens.
But its not just estrogen levels that LBs mess with. Carrying extra weight is associated with a whole laundry list of scientific-sounding reproductive complications including the following: insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia, hyperandrogenaemia, increased peripheral aromatization of androgens to estrogens, altered gonadotrophin secretion, decreased sex hormone binding globulin, decreased growth hormone (GH) and insulin like growth factor binding proteins (IGFBPs), increased leptin levels and altered neuroregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. And all of these link directly to the sequence of events involved in the reproductive process.
So The Estrogen Gal should get into a Morning Movement routine. Start with 20 minutes a day of light walking or yoga and work your way up to 40 minutes a day. If 20 is all you can fit in that's fine, just commit to it every day. Get a friend to share an exercise log with you so you are held accountable. If gyms are too expensive try You Tube for exercise routines. There are a million free videos to choose from.
The ART Girl
Assisted Reproductive Techniques, like IUIs and IVF, include intense doses of medication that can leave you feeling bloated and weighed down. Sometimes you feel like you must do something to move all of that stagnated Qi but you don't want to induce a stress state while going through these very expensive and precarious procedures.
While stimming, I suggest continuing your exercise routine as long as its not aggressively intense. (see the above paragraph under GO-GO GET 'EM Girl for why). Light elliptical, brisk walks, and dance classes are great ways to continue moving your Qi without putting added stress on your body.
During the two week wait I suggest tuning the dial down a notch and going on long after dinner walks and doing some gentile stretches. If you need a little bit more exercise in your life there is a program out there called Fit2B. They specialize in exercises for pre and post natal woman that are "TummySafe." While your body is working hard to implant an embryo you want to be sure to keep your core and pelvic floor muscles pretty relaxed. Their videos are done by women like you and me and the community is welcoming and encouraging.
I hope this provides some clarity on what research says about exercise and fertility. The gist: moderate movement every day. Lay off the insanity workouts but definitely get yourself up off the Netflix couch. I'm in the process of developing a specific exercise program for women on their fertility journey so be sure to keep an eye out on the blog.