Can you believe Kerry Walsh is 5 weeks pregnant in this photo! She has a six-pack!? If Walsh had no problem getting pregnant during intense training, why are there so many articles warning about doing too much exercise while trying to conceive?
Perhaps you have read that either living a sedentary lifestyle or having an extreme exercise regime can be detrimental to fertility. Both can disrupt hormonal balance to the point of making someone infertile. So how much is the right amount? The research on exactly how much exercise to do while trying to get pregnant can be a bit confusing. This blog post will hopefully clarify any misconceptions.
Why Couples Should Exercise While Trying to Conceive
Exercise is a key component to manage weight, which is essential for getting pregnant due to hormonal imbalances that occur with excessive weight. Exercise has also been shown to improve rates of implantation and pregnancy as well as reduce the risk of miscarriage (source).
In men, the right amount of exercise can increase sperm count and quality. It can also improve sex drive in both men and women. Not to mention the incredible psychological and stress reduction benefits it provides. All of which are key components to making a baby.
Weight and Exercise
Weight is a big deal when it comes to getting pregnant. Studies show that when a woman is overweight, losing as little as 5% of body weight can significantly improve the chances of getting pregnant (source).
As for the other half of the equation, your man, his sperm is also affected by weight gain and men can also become more fertile when they lose weight (source).
If you are underweight, however, you also will have a harder time getting pregnant. Underweight women are found to have a more difficult time getting pregnant and are at increased risk for miscarriages and babies born underweight (source). Underweight men with a BMI under 18.5 also are less fertile than men with a BMI between 18.5-24.9. If your body fat is low enough, you can stop getting your period which means that you have stopped ovulating.
Whether you would like to lose a couple of pounds or gain a couple, you will want to make sure you are eating enough healthy fats and protein. Check out this website on Baby Center for eating recommendations.
Research-Backed Exercise Recommendations for Exercise
Here are the national and international evidence-based physical activity guidelines relevant to men and women trying to conceive:
A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity 6-7 days a week or 75 minutes/week of vigorous intensity or if over weight it is recommended to do moderate intensity physical activity for 225-300 minutes/week.
What can I do for exercise:
If you are healthy and deemed fit for exercise, here is a sample of a safe TTC regime:
Run/Swim/Bike/Walk: 2-4 times a week
Weight Training: 2 times a week
Stretching or Yoga: 2 days a week minimum
Rest day: 1-2 times a week
Risk Factors that Exercise May Impede Pregnancy
The key is to get into the mindset of training for your health and to make a baby. This is not the time to train for your first marathon or to break a PR in a half marathon. If you want to race, consider doing a shorter distance events in the 5K to 10K range.
If you train intensely and you have any of the below risk factors, your exercise regime may need to be modified in order to get pregnant:
Amenorrhea (not getting a period)
Low Body Weight
Low Body Fat
Diet deficiencies (esp protein)
Every individual's body is going to respond to certain levels of training in their own unique way. The bodies response to exercise depends on factors such as how much body fat you have in the first place (more body fat may mean you can work out more intensely) as well as how much sleep and protein you are getting.
According to Running Doc, Lewis G. Maharam, if you are having a difficult time getting pregnant, try cutting your regime in half and see if that works. The key is to avoid excessive amounts of long or hard workouts that tax your body and immune system. Train for fitness rather than performance.
If you are not working out at all, make sure you get the thumbs up from your doctor before you get started. Exercise will not only help you to get pregnant, but will also make for a healthier pregnancy.