Too Much Exercise Can Lower Fertility

Finding the right exercise balance is key to reproductive health. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and adamr.

Finding the right exercise balance is key to reproductive health. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and adamr.

I’m starting to completely reconsider my exercise routine. Everything is on the table, including my walks. As we begin our baby quest, I’m learning that too much exercise can hinder fertility.

It turns out that excessive aerobic exercise interferes with ovulation. For women like me, pursuing in vitro fertilization, 4 or more hours of aerobic exercise a week lowers chances of success.

Yep. For people like me 4+ hours a week maybe excessive. Sigh…

Stress-Induced Infertility?
Stress can play a big role in whether you can get pregnant. However, stress in this case doesn’t mean a bad day at work or sitting in traffic. What I’m talking about is physiological stress, where you trick your brain into thinking you are in a life-threatening situation. High-intensity cardio and your diet (calorie cutting) both do that. Check out the video below about fertility and exercise.

Hormones At Play
When women “over do” aerobic exercise, there are 3 things the can happen to stop conception in its tracks.

  1. Disruption of the progesterone hormone, which prepares your body for conception and helps regulate a woman’s monthly cycle. Too much aerobic exercise disrupts its production during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
  2. Other hormones (GnRH production, LH and FSH secretion, and estradiol production) are important in reproduction can get suppressed, and this could result in an egg not being released (anovulation).
  3. The Leptin hormone tells your brain you’re nutritionally sound. But too much cardio can lead to leptin resistance. If your brain isn’t getting the proper signals from leptin, you might not get pregnant anytime soon.

Clearly my reproductive hormones were all screwed up from years of eating a diet low in fat. I just didn’t realize my exercise routine could be a reason too. So what’s an active girl going for in vitro fertilization to do?

Rethinking My Routine
Although I’m still in the pre-screening phase of the in vitro process, I’ve decided to start exercising as if I’m undergoing treatment. While I’m not using my eggs, I still want my hormones working correctly. Otherwise I risk no pregnancy or possibly a miscarriage.

Walks – For my September monthly challenge, I’m building up to walking 13.2 miles. That quest ends today. I’m now focused on daily walking at a slow pace, probably for an hour.

Running – This is a tough one for me. After 5 weeks of no running, I started back up again. I do love it, but for now I’m giving it up…albeit for a good cause. I’m sure I’ll take heat from a few perfectly fertile runners out there, but I don’t care. There’s growing science on exercise and fertility. If 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise a week is harmful to my reproductive health, that’s 75 minutes too much.

Weight Training – No, I’m not signing up with a trainer again. But I am going to try UrbanFit, my parkour gym’s weight training program. I want to build strength, and I need to focus on a slow-burn approach. But once the in vitro begins, I’ll switch over to light hand weights and resistance bands.

Yoga – Sadly, I haven’t gone to a yoga class for a couple of months. But now it’s back on my workout docket. Stretching and balancing are always a good thing, and it’s low impact, another plus. I’m shooting for two hours a week.

Overall, I want to stay active during the day, build strength, but not go crazy when it comes to cardio.

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