Fitness is important not just to your overall health, but to your fertility as well. Moderate exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, increase your energy levels, and help balance hormone production. But too much exercise can actually have a negative effect on your efforts to start a family. Here’s what you need to know about exercise and your fertility.
Benefits of Working Out
There are certainly benefits to exercise that can improve fertility. In general, exercise can reduce stress, a factor in as many as 30% of all infertility cases. In women, it can help in different ways:
- Working out helps manage weight. Weight loss has been shown to increase female fertility, particularly in women with a BMI over 30 who went through a health weight change.
- For women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), exercise can help balance hormone levels and regulate ovulation, making it easier to conceive.
- Exercising, in combination with a healthy diet, can lower the risk of ovulatory dysfunction by nearly 70%.
Exercise can also increase male fertility:
- Weight loss is good for a man’s reproductive health. Obesity in men can affect sperm count as well as damage the DNA of sperm cells.
- Jogging can improve sperm motility and morphology as well as increase sperm volume.
- Yoga can improve sperm count and motility and is also excellent for prostate health.
Downsides of Too Much Exercise
Unfortunately, you can have too much of a good thing. While exercise is generally considered a healthy habit, excessive or strenuous exercise can actually reduce your chances of getting pregnant:
- If a woman loses too much body fat, it can disrupt hormone production and throw off her menstrual cycle. This can affect when ovulation occurs, or even stop ovulation altogether – a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea.
- Low body fat is also an issue for men, as it signals the body to stop producing testosterone. Being underweight can actually be worse for sperm count and sperm concentration than being obese.
- Strenuous exercise can increase oxidative stress – the negative effect of free radicals on cells, including sperm and eggs. This can impact fertility by disrupting the way reproductive cells develop.
- In men, exercises that press on the testicles or raise their temperature too greatly or for too long can harm sperm count. This is especially true for bicyclists, who often exercise for long periods on a device that is not exactly designed for comfort.