How does exercise impact your fertility?

We are all told we need to exercise more. Regularly exercising is extremely important and a lack of adequate exercise affects our health and fertility. The impact on fertility of insufficient exercise seems fairly simple – we don’t move enough, we gain weight; this negatively impacts our reproductive system. But what about overexercising? Over exercising can also negatively impact us.

The effects of overexercising on fertility has been undergoing extensive study for decades. A wealth of data already shows that it can cause reductions and delays in all stages of the reproductive cycle. For men it has been linked to reductions in quality and morphology of sperm, in women changes to the menstrual cycle. For example delays or an absent cycle, reductions in hormone levels, shortening of the luteal phase, to name a few.

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Some research suggests that the effects we see from over exercising is due to insufficient calloric needs. Meaning you are burning more energy than you are putting into the body; so the body reduces the functioning of the reproductive system to mitigate the energy loss. (Burning more callories than you consume is how you loose weight through exercise.) Other research has linked these changes to the increased physiological stress of exercise. Ie Increases in oxydatic stress and a reduction in antioxyidents damaging the body. Our body then reduces the functioning of the reproductive system to avoid increased stress placed on it.

So how much, is too much?

After we finish exercise we should feel invigorated, some tiredness is normal but if after 30 – 40 minutes we are still tired we have overdone it. Instead of being helpful it just wears the body out more quickly and increases the likihood of an injury. Generally try to gently exercise for about 30 minutes every day. But listen to your body if it is making you feel worse, stop and try again later.

There are many different ways to exercise, not all of them are equal. Often we recommend swimming – its low impact (less stress placed on the body), it requires breath control and training, its movements stretch and loosen the whole body while being calming. Tai chi is also very good – it is low impact, increases bone density, it loosens the joints, it trains and controls the breath, it calms and focuses the mind. It’s also very slow – the slowness is deliberate – it forces you to do movements correctly while reducing injury to the body.

Just remember that whatever exercise you do, it should be fun and maintained at an appropriate level, neither too little nor too much. Exercise should help us become healthier and stronger; not cause further health complications.