Is exercise helpful or harmful?

#fitmoms have gotten a lot of attention lately on the internet. Sure, being fit is just one way you can help ensure a healthy pregnancy. It can even help you conceive. But it’s also possible to turn this healthy habit into an unhealthy one. In fact, overdoing it can increase your risks for infertility.

If you want to get pregnant, what should you do? Take it down a notch? Start a new type of fitness regimen?

Read on and discover the answers to whether your current regimen (or lack thereof) and weight need a change and what you can do. Before making any significant fitness modifications, you should always check with your doctor first, especially if you’re living with an existing condition.

Are you exercising too much?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that “excessive exercise may be associated with infertility.” But what exactly is excessive?

Well, think of workouts that promote a “no pain, no gain” mindset. For example, exercises that cause injuries or lack of sleep, or exercises that you add on top of your daily workout, may be excessive.

Those intense calorie-burning activities where you work off more than you eat can impact fertility. Part of the problem with exercising too much is that your body may perceive the stress as a reason not to encourage fertility. In other words, your pituitary gland may not encourage ovulation if you overdo exercise. Though it may seem frustrating, your body is actually protecting you when it discourages ovulation.

How does your weight affect fertility?

Sometimes fertility can be affected by weight. The Irish Examiner reports that weight issues affect 12 percent of women trying to conceive. Being overweight or obese can make getting pregnant difficult. However, as far as fertility is concerned, being under the “ideal” weight is a bigger cause for concern.

Knowing your body mass index (BMI) can go hand-in-hand with your exercise plans and help your body get in its ideal state for pregnancy. Figure out your BMI by inputting your weight and height into a BMI calculator. Then see where the results fall in this BMI scale:

  • ideal pre-pregnancy: 20-25
  • average healthy women: 18.5-24.9
  • increased risk of infertility: under 18.5

While sometimes bone structure and muscle weight can skew the results, most doctors still use this tool as a baseline.

Being overweight or obese may not necessarily get in the way of conception. But you may also be at a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications.

Which exercises are better for fertility?

Higher-intensity workouts tend to work against fertility, rather than help it. So instead of your regular workout, stick with a more moderate activity. Try:

  • walking
  • dancing
  • cycling
  • swimming
  • Pilates
  • tai chi
  • yoga

Also, if you’re new to working out, you’ll want to make sure you start out slow and be consistent with your fitness goals. The Fertility Society of Australia says that just an hour-long workout three times a week can increase the chances of implantation.

Sticking to a regular schedule is also key. As a rule of thumb, you should work your way up to a daily 30-minute workout. This guideline works regardless of your current weight.

What about being overweight?

If you’re overweight, getting started with a low-intensity workout 10 minutes at a time can be beneficial. Being underweight doesn’t mean you should stop exercising — you may just need to decrease the intensity level or amount of time.

The takeaway

If you’re looking to get pregnant but love working out, consider ways you can lower the intensity without losing out on your favorite parts. After all, no one should ever consider skipping on exercise altogether. General fitness not only ups your chances for conception, it also promotes a healthier pregnancy, delivery, and baby.

On the flipside, if you’re new to exercise, getting fit can offer a world of benefits outside of fertility. You’ll lower your blood pressure and glucose, as well as help manage your weight. You might even reap some bonus benefits, such as better sleep and more energy.

The key is to keep exercising and listen to your body. Recognize that results from exercise can take time, so don’t overwork your body. You may not reap the fertility benefits of a regular workout regimen for up to a year. If you’re at your ideal weight, you can help boost your fertility by maintaining a regular workout schedule.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that fertility is complex. While exercise can play a role, so can diet, age, and hormones. If you have trouble conceiving despite a healthy lifestyle, you may want to make an appointment with your OB-GYN.