As is known, adding exercise to your daily routine is a great step towards making some major lifestyle changes and reducing health issues. However, there is one area where exercising is not considered very beneficial. Dr Apurva Satish Amarnath, Fertility Consultant at Nova IVF Fertility, Bengaluru, says, “As per many studies and real-life scenarios, too much or no exercise at all can cause fertility problems, taking away your chances of getting pregnant.”
Further explaining the link between physical activity and female fertility, Dr Amarnath says, “Exercising regularly can maintain the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual. However, too much exercise can cause problems related to female infertility. This can be due to energy deficit, which happens as a result of a lack of intake of energy that does not meet the energy requirements of the body. According to research, women should maintain the optimum levels of BMI from 20 to 24.9 for regular ovulation, menstruation and fertility.”
For conception, your body must maintain the minimum level of body fat (17 per cent) required for menarche and maintaining ovulation. If the levels fall, it can lead to irregular periods and ovulatory disturbances, affecting your chances of pregnancy. As such, excessive vigorous exercise can impair ovulation in women, but on the other hand, not engaging in any physical activity can lead to obesity, causing several problems like irregular periods, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), etc. “Being overweight is highly linked to infertility issues. So, if you are overweight, exercising can prove to be useful in resolving these issues. Along with exercise, a proper diet is also crucial,” advises Dr Amarnath.
Make note of these ways in which exercise can affect fertility:
- Vigorous exercise can improve fertility among women who are overweight
- Vigorous exercise can cause infertility issues among women with normal weight
- The risk of ovulatory problems increases if a woman does aerobics for more than 7 hours a week
- Moderate exercise can increase fertility among women
- Strenuous exercise (more than 4 hours a week) can lead to failure of IVF treatment
Speaking of the impact of exercise on male fertility, Dr Amarnath says, “Not many studies show a link between physical exercise and male fertility. However, some indicate that strenuous or intense workouts can affect sperm concentration and motility. Obesity can also affect the quality and quantity of sperms. If men indulge in moderate exercise, the sperm quality improves.” Additionally, steroids used for muscle growth among men can also impact sperm concentration and motility, as these substances reduce the levels of testosterone. This poses a hurdle to normal sperm development, therefore causing infertility.
So how can one manage the intensity of workouts? Dr Amarnath suggests indulging in moderate aerobic activity for a minimum of 2-3 hours a week. “Moderate exercising means that you will be able to talk without pausing for breath. It will increase your heart rate and increase the pace of breathing, making you feel warmer. Exercising vigorously means that you won’t be able to speak more than a few words as you will find it hard to breathe,” he adds.
Some moderate exercises include:
- Riding a bicycle
- Water aerobics
Finally, note that exercising too much or too little does not cause any permanent damage to fertility. “Menstrual or ovulation disturbances are mainly caused due to energy deficit. If your fertility problems are due to an energy deficit, you will have to gain a few more kilos to recover to maintain optimal fertility. Also, you might need to decrease the intensity of your workouts, but don’t give up exercising completely,” says Dr Amarnath.
by Kalwyna Rathod