How much is okay, what kinds of activities work best, and what exercises to avoid while trying to get pregnant
Many patients ask if they can or should exercise while trying to conceive. If so, what kinds of exercise work best? How much is too much, or not enough? As with many questions around fertility, there is no one-size-fits all answer. In general, exercise can improve physical, mental, and reproductive health. The best kind of exercise is the kind that feels healthy, sustainable, and joyful for you. Here are some things to consider as you and your care team discuss exercise while trying to conceive.
How Much Exercise Is Okay While Trying to Conceive?
You can find a million different suggestions about exercise while trying to conceive, ranging from “you must exercise” to “you shouldn’t exercise at all!” What does the research really say? First, we know from extensive research that in general, exercise improves physical and mental health and can lower the risk of some chronic illnesses. Many people find that moving their bodies reduces anxiety and brings them joy. When it comes to fertility, studies also indicate that moderate exercise can benefit reproductive health, regulate ovulation, increase sperm production, and improve fertility rates in people with ovaries.
On the other hand, studies of professional athletes also show that frequent, high intensity exercise can lead to irregular ovulation and lower fertility. Unfortunately, no one has conducted a study yet as to exactly how much exercise is “too much” when trying to conceive. In general, research supports moderate exercise. For additional studies and recommendations, watch this video on Fitness and Fertility from PNWF’s Dr. Lora Shahine.
Does Weight Loss Matter While Trying to Conceive?
Obesity can link to irregular menstrual cycles or trouble conceiving. However, several studies show that regular exercise can benefit ovulation and fertility regardless of weight loss. Patients often see rapid improvement in mood, sleep quality, hormonal balance, insulin resistance, and ovulation after including moderate, regular movement into their routine. Overall, consistent movement that feels healthy and sustainable is more important than focusing on an arbitrary weight number.
What Kind of Exercise Helps When Trying to Conceive?
The best exercise is the one you’ll do consistently! If you already have a workout routine, talk with your doctor about tailoring it to your fertility goals. That may look like continuing your current plan, or finding low-to-moderate versions of a high-impact activity. Even if you don’t currently exercise, think about what kinds of movement might feel enjoyable. If you love to dance, move to your favorite song! If you want to improve flexibility, you can find all different kinds of yoga videos online. Or, if you find having a partner helps, plan regular walks with a friend. You don’t have to sign up for a gym membership or buy all sorts of equipment to build healthy movement into your routine.
As a general guideline, even 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, three to four days a week can make a difference in reproductive health. When it comes to fertility and exercise, consistency helps more than intensity.
If you are trying to conceive naturally, most moderate-impact exercise activities are fine. If you are conceiving through in vitro fertilization (IVF), there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
Can I Exercise During IVF?
You may have heard that patients should not exercise at all during an IVF cycle due to the risk of ovarian torsion, when the enlarged ovaries twist around and cut off blood flow. Ovarian torsion is rare, but certain activities or movements involving twisting or bouncing can increase the risk. The guideline of “no exercise during IVF” stems from this concern.
However, low-impact exercise can actually help with sleep, mood regulation, and recovery time during an IVF cycle. IVF can be physically and emotionally challenging on its own, and cutting out all exercise can add to those challenges. Before beginning your IVF cycle, talk with your doctor about possible safe forms of exercise while trying to conceive through IVF. Typically, these involves avoiding any activities with sudden movements, twisting, or inversions. Walking, gentle yoga (without inversions) and swimming (without sudden or flip turns) may be appropriate for you.
Expert Guidance on Balancing Fitness and Fertility
Overall, being physically active can make you feel better physically and emotionally. Trying to conceive, especially if you experience challenges, can be an emotional process, and it’s important to take care of yourself and your body during this time. Everyone’s fertility journey is unique, with individual considerations. At PNWF, we work with our patients to create fitness plans that support their fertility and health goals. Talk with your doctor about how to incorporate enjoyable, sustainable exercise into your life while trying to conceive.
For more information, read Dr. Shahine’s blog on Fitness and Fertility.