For soon-to-be mothers and enthusiastic fathers, developing a productive workout routine and leading an active lifestyle is paramount for birthing a healthy and vibrant baby in the upcoming months. However, many men and women are unfamiliar with the damage and inflammation that excess exercise can cause within their bodies. If you have struggled with fertility issues in the past or you want a stress-free birthing experience, here are some precautions to consider the next time you hit the gym.
How Your Workout Routine Negatively Influences Your Fertility
When we turn on our television or open up social media, the first thing that catches our eyes is the lean and sculpted physiques of the influencers we follow. Wanting to emulate the people we admire, we start hitting the gym with newfound vigor and excitement as the body of our dreams slowly manifests itself.
But somewhere along the way, perhaps a few months into our new routine, we notice that our body begins showing signs of wear and tear. Have you experienced any of the following side effects after a grueling workout?
- Missed our delayed menstrual cycles
- Low sex drive
- Chronic aches and pains
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Debilitating fatigue and sluggishness
- Inability to focus
- Frequently bouts of sickness
- Emotional instability
Whether you’re male or female, these are warning signs that you’re stressing your body in an unhealthy manner. If you maintain your current workout routine and ignore these symptoms, your fertility will dwindle in the subsequent weeks.
The Core Components Behind Exercise-Induced Infertility
For females, a certain amount of body fat and weight is required for optimal fertility and birthing. When women perform hours of cardiovascular exercise and weightlifting routines, their body fat levels may drop into a range that prevents pregnancy. Although many female readers may want to reduce the amount of weight on their body, fat excretes a hormone vital for fertility: estrogen.
Without estrogen in a female’s system, becoming pregnant and bringing life into the world is impossible. According to Nancy Williams, a professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, women who exercise and reduce their fat to an unhealthy level find it difficult to become pregnant while maintaining their workout routine.
Being severely underweight or obese can both be associated with decreased fertility or problems during pregnancy, but the main guideline for health associated with conception is body mass index (BMI). BMI takes into consideration a person’s height and weight, and produces a number, which can be used to gauge physical health. A healthy BMI lies between 18 and 25, and a value above or below this range can indicate fertility issues.
Fat cells are responsible for producing hormones that are critical for ovulation and pregnancy, and a body fat percentage that is too high or too low can lead to over- or under-production of these hormones. Exercising can be a great way to positively adjust body fat percentage, leading to a healthier BMI as well.
Men also have to balance the amount of time they spend working out. New data shows that cortisol, a hormone that regulates blood glucose and repairs damage within the body, can adversely affect men’s sexual health.
When a man exercises excessively, cortisol is released within his system and impairs his ability to maintain erections, produce high-quality sperm and maintain normal blood pressure. In a broad scope, this negatively influences his ability to impregnate his partner and bring new life into the world.
On the other hand, obese men have an abundance of fat cells, which contain a substance known as aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen, and while this is normal in men to a degree, men who are obese often have too much estrogen in their bloodstreams. This estrogen binds to androgen receptors in the brain, making the pituitary gland believe that there is too much testosterone when, in fact, there is not enough. As such, the male body stops producing the right levels of testosterone, leading to low sperm counts.
How to Exercise When Trying to Become Pregnant
Regular exercising while trying to become pregnant and during your pregnancy cycle is beneficial. Here is a brief list of exercise routines and movements that can help readers get in great shape, improve their fertility, and most importantly, stay healthy during the anticipation of their newborn:
- Resistance training
- Gentle weightlifting
- Spin class
- Brisk walking
- Light hiking
The key for men and women to stay in shape during the process of becoming pregnant is to be gentle with their actions. If you feel stressed, sore, lethargic, dizzy, nauseous or faint during your session, it’s time to take it down a notch. Maintaining a consistent workout routine over the course of your pregnancy will help you feel calm, relaxed, strong and vibrant during the process.
Exercises That Should Be Avoided
The types of physical activities and workout regimens that might impact someone’s fertility vary from individual to individual and may depend upon numerous factors such as his or her age, height, weight and overall general health. Those seeking to conceive a child and/or experiencing fertility difficulties are advised to consult with their physicians before beginning or continuing any exercise program. A doctor or personal trainer may be able to help tailor the best and/or most appropriate workout plan depending upon the person’s specific circumstances.
That said, there are specific activities fertility-challenged and/or would-be parents might be better off avoiding. Women may opt not to partake in strenuous and ultra-taxing sports like ballet, distance running (mini and full marathons), gymnastics and heavy-duty weight training, unless approved by their doctor to continue. Men are advised to think twice about participating in activities such as excessive cycling, which not only causes the testes to overheat but also places undue pressure and strain on the sperm-producing organs.
Tips for Healthy Exercise and Fertility
Infertility is an issue that is more common than you might think among couples. To help encourage a healthy lifestyle and fertility, it is important to regulate your health by monitoring your weight, BMI and fitness level.
With all of this information in mind, it may seem difficult to decide how much exercise is enough and how much is simply too much. Overall, men and women who are of a healthy weight with a BMI of 25 or less fare better when exercising leisurely for no more than 30 minutes per day. Conversely, men and women considered overweight or obese with a BMI higher than 25 should exercise moderately for up to 60 minutes per day. Everyone should combine their exercise with a healthy diet in order to see the best results.
We believe anyone, man or woman, who wants to be healthy before and after pregnancy should adopt a workout routine that calms their nerves and helps them stay in shape. The link between being active and fertile is well documented and can help millions of individuals become pregnant in the near future.
Click here for A 30-Day Guide to Better Fitness for Fertility Health