Research Shows Exercise Can Cause Infertility
02 Oct, 2019
There is no doubt that physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but can too much exercise cause detrimental effects on fertility? The truth is, the intensity and frequency of exercise plays a large role on the chances of pregnancy.
Dr. Richard J. Paulson, the director of USC Fertility at the University of Southern California, says exercise routine is linked to the chances of becoming pregnant.1 Exercise is a stressor on the body, and if the brain sees that the body is under too much stress, ovulation will not occur.
So if someone is trying to become pregnant, their exercise routine must be carefully planned – but how much exercise is too much?
The “Not-So Perfect” Fitness Routine
Every person has a different idea of what is considered “enough” exercise, but for those looking to become pregnant, it is important to review their fitness routine. Are you going to the gym for 2 hours a day, 7 days a week? Do you frequently feel nauseous after your workouts? Even if the frequency of exercise is not extreme, if you are always exercising to the point of exhaustion, your energy and fat stores may be depleted.
Keep in mind that when you are planning to grow a baby, intense exercise is not a priority. In fact, women need to have a BMI of over 18 and have enough body fat to get pregnant!1,2
How Much Exercise Is Too Much?
It is important to remember that although too much exercise may decrease fertility, light and moderate exercise are still relevant in supporting a healthy body that is capable of reproducing.
Most of us likely won’t hit our exercise limits, but if you are regularly training intensely for athletic competitions, be cautious of how you are feeling after each workout and determine whether you need to re-evaluate your workouts. Are you feeling excessively tired? Have muscle or joint pain? Can’t get a good night’s sleep? You may be overdoing it.3
The “right” intensity and frequency of exercise is very specific to each individual, so monitoring your energy levels and symptoms are a great way to determine your own routine. It may be helpful to have a functional health practitioner weigh in as well, ideally someone who specializes in fertility.
Intense Workouts Or Conceiving: One Or The Other?
How can exercise be harmful for fertility? In short, your body can only reproduce if you have enough energy and fat to support a baby. In addition, forced exercise due to weight loss or because you “have to”, has been shown to increase anxiety, which further decreases chances of becoming pregnant.4 Intense training depletes your body from nutrients that you need to support your baby.3 For women, high intensity workouts can affect the hormonal balance and lead to the loss of a period or decreased egg growth and ovulation.2
For men, it can decrease sperm quality.1 Remember, the exercise routines of both people, not just that of the women, can have an impact on fertility!
It’s Not Too Late To Make a Change!
If you are reconsidering your exercise routine and panicking because there is a chance it may be too much, do not worry. It is not too late to make a change! Exercise does not damage fertility permanently.5 Though it can take some time for your body to heal after decreasing the physical stress on your body, it is important to relax and not let your body be further stressed.
Instead of focusing on what you did in the past, focus on supplementing your new fitness routine with healthy habits such as sleep, relaxation, whole foods, and specific optimization supplementation designed to increases chances of conception, reduce the risk of miscarriage and support a healthy pregnancy. Ensure an adequate amount of sleep for recovery and be prepared for anxious periods with de-stressing techniques. Before long, the negative effects of over-exercise on fertility will be gone!
- The Fertility Society of Australia. (n.d.). The role of exercise in improving fertility, quality of life and emotional wellbeing. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://www.yourfertility.org.au/sites/default/files/2018-08/The_role_of_exercise_in_improving_fertility.pdf.
- Groll, J. (2017). What's Your Exercise Prescription for Fertility? Retrieved from https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/women-wisdom-wellness-/what-s-your-exercise-prescription-for-fertility-.
- Murkoff, H. (2018). Working out When You're Trying to Get Pregnant. Retrieved from https://www.whattoexpect.com/getting-pregnant/health-and-wellness/safeguard-your-health/exercise-before-pregnancy.aspx.
- NIH. (2010). NIH study indicates stress may delay women getting pregnant. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-indicates-stress-may-delay-women-getting-pregnant.
- Meisel, L. (2019). Yes, Exercise Can Hurt Your Fertility. Here's How to Exercise Safely. Retrieved from https://www.avawomen.com/avaworld/exercise-fertility/.