If you’re trying to get pregnant, good physical health is paramount. So you start eating a nutritious diet, but we highly encourage you to squeeze physical activity and some exercise into your daily routine. Experts say exercise can influence fertility and even make it easier for you to conceive.
Role of exercise in conceiving
Weight has always had a role in your chances of getting pregnant, but it was only recently that experts began to look into how exercise affects fertility. Robert Brzyski, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, tells Shape.com that “considering the role of exercise is a recent phenomenon in Western medicine.”
Dr. Brzyski adds, “Studies on which to base fitness advice are still difficult to find and often contradictory, so it's been hard to give women definitive guidelines to follow.” For this reason, it can be hard for even experts to provide guidelines on the most appropriate intensity and frequency of exercise for women who are trying to conceive.
One sure thing, though, is exercise can affect fertility both in women and men. According to The Fertility Society of Australia, research has discovered that vigorous exercise can lower a woman’s risk of ovulation problems while moderate exercise reduces the risk of miscarriage. Exercise can also help women who undergo assisted reproductive technology (procedures that help treat infertility, like IVF) get pregnant more easily.
How does exercise affect fertility?
Exercise affects fertility by helping to eliminate or manage known causes of infertility, says Verywell Fit. It helps reduce stress, which can negatively affect your ability to conceive. The stress can also push you towards behaviors that might lead to infertility, like smoking, drinking, or eating unhealthy foods.
We know exercise gets our body in better shape. Working out regularly tones your muscles, including your heart, which becomes vital when you become pregnant. The heart pumps up to 50% more blood for the mother and the baby during pregnancy, says What to Expect.
When you exercise, you reduce your risk of gaining excess weight. That is good news because obesity can make you more likely to experience pregnancy complications like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.
The Fertility Society of Australia notes that overweight or obese women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can benefit from regular exercise, which helps increase the frequency of their ovulation. This leads to more regular menstrual cycles and an increase in their chances of getting pregnant.
Another way that exercise affects fertility is it helps women sleep better. Researchers claim exercising can set your circadian rhythms in such a way that you feel more awake during the day and rest better at night. Sleep problems are associated with obesity, which, in turn, affects fertility.
How much exercise should you do before pregnancy?
Sheila Dugan, M.D., chair of the Strategic Health Initiative on Women, Sport, and Physical Activity at the American College of Sports Medicine, tells Shape the default recommendation on exercise for women of normal weight who want to get pregnant is 150 minutes per week (30 minutes per day) of moderate-intensity workouts.
According to the Fertility Society of Australia, overweight or obese men and women who want to conceive are recommended to perform 225 to 300 minutes per week (35 to 45 minutes per day) of moderate-intensity workouts.
If you’re underweight, in addition to around three days of exercise per week, Shape also recommends consuming around 2,400 to 3,500 calories every day so you can gain enough weight to get into the normal BMI range (body fat of more than 12%).
Consult your doctor about high-intensity exercises. According to Dr. Brzyski, “If you make a dramatic increase in your exercise level, even if BMI or body fat percentage stays the same, the stress can have a negative effect on reproductive hormone production and fertility.”
Too much of exercise may harm your chances of conceiving. According to Parents, very intense exercise “can disrupt your normal menstrual cycle and even make implantation of an embryo more difficult (since irregular periods may make your uterine lining less hospitable).”
Safe exercises if you’re trying to get pregnant
If you are trying to conceive, running or walking are both excellent cardiovascular workouts that don’t require special equipment, says What to Expect. You may also want to try weightlifting because it builds muscle tone and bone strength, which are both helpful if you want to stay in shape during your pregnancy.
What to Expect also recommends swimming, which builds muscle tone and can help ease early pregnancy symptoms like swelling and nausea, and indoor cycling for those who have been doing it for at least six months.
Yoga, barre, or Pilates can improve muscle tone, strength, endurance, and balance (all of which can come in handy when you’re having baby-making sex!) Bonus: Yoga can help you relax. Just make sure to seek the help of a yoga instructor to help you figure out your body’s limits to avoid injuries.