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Exercise and TTC

4 September 2020

If you have been trying to conceive, you may have heard that too much — or too little — exercise can make it harder to conceive. This may make you wonder what the do’s and don’ts of physical activity actually are when trying to conceive. In this article, we review current evidence, myths and facts.

Different activity levels

Physical activity is defined as any body movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires expending energy. Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, repetitive, and structured and usually has a goal to maintain or improve at least one component of physical fitness. Sedentary behaviour comprises time spent in periods of little or no movement while awake (eg. sitting).

To be physically and mentally healthy it’s important to keep your body active, but you don’t necessarily need to go to the gym or attend a class! Any activity that increases your heart rate and makes you breathe faster will do.

Physical activity and fertility

When trying to conceive, it’s important to consider not only the type of physical activity (eg. recreational, household, work) and exercise (eg. aerobic, strengthening, low impact), as well as the intensity (light, moderate, vigorous) of that activity.

Research shows sub-fertility is associated with vigorous (exercising daily or to exhaustion) but not with lower intensity or lower frequency exercise. It is thought that strenuous exercise increases risk of ovulation problems, hormonal problems and sperm quality.

What is the right level of activity?

Vigorous or strenuous activities seem to be detrimental to fertility. It’s recommended that any type of strenuous training is avoided when trying to conceive. This may include boot camp training, extreme running or cycling, high intensity training or exercising more than 60 min per day.

When trying to conceive, guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, on most and preferably all days of the week. This may include walking, yoga, dancing, leisure bike riding, aerobics, jogging, or swimming.

For men and women who are overweight, exercise can help maintain weight or achieve a slight weight loss which improves fertility. As part of weight management, guidelines recommend that overweight or obese adults perform 225 to 300 minutes moderate-intensity exercise every week (about 35 to 45 minutes per day).

Takeaway points

  • Physical activity can help you improve quality of life, emotional wellbeing and fertility.
  • Engaging in any physical activity is better than no physical activity.
  • If you don’t currently exercise, start with achievable goals.
  • Over time build up to the recommended levels of least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Mix it different activities, that you can engage in indoors and outdoors, at different times of the day. This will help you keep active even in rainy days or when you have unexpected appointments or things to do.

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