By: Tami Smith
We all know that exercise, when done appropriately, is good for your body. But what about exercise when trying to conceive; are there different guidelines and recommendations?
As a pre and post-natal fitness instructor with a passion for exercise and with personal experience with infertility, I’ve been asked this question many times. Unfortunately, a Google search will net you all kinds of conflicting answers, and you’ll likely even get a different answer from different medical providers, which can cause some serious doubt and anxiety around exercising while trying to conceive.
In this article, I want to share with you a few general guidelines for working out while TTC, my personal experience, and then some gentle, appropriate ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
General Fertility Exercise Guidelines: What Does the Research Show?
In general, regardless of what stage of life you are in and what medical conditions you may be facing, exercise is good for you. Study after study has concluded that the benefits of regular, safe exercise can prevent chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and more. A lack of physical activity has been linked to obesity, and many studies have found that obesity has a direct correlation to reproductive issues such as:
- Menstrual irregularities;
- Ovulation dysfunction; and
- Poor obstetric outcomes.
Things tend to get a bit sticky when we start to look at some of the research for two ends of the spectrum. One study shows that women who fall within a normal weight range and live a sedentary lifestyle have lower fertility rates. On the other side of the coin, studies done on athletes show that high levels of exercise (vigorous) can have a negative effect on a woman’s menstrual cycle, leading to issues with ovulation and conception.
So, as you can deduce from these findings, exercise is a good thing when trying to conceive, but as with anything in life, too much of a good thing may be a bad thing.
The conclusion? As evidenced in this study, physical activity has beneficial effects on reproductive outcomes. In fact, pregnancy rates can be up to two times higher in patients who maintain regular exercise when compared to those who don’t exercise at all when TTC. These benefits are most helpful in patients who are dealing with PCOS, obesity, insulin resistance, and fertility treatments.
Incorporating Gentle Exercise Into Your Routine
Exercising while trying to conceive involves finding a gentle balance between moving enough and not taking things to an extreme that can hinder your ability to conceive. I was diagnosed with PCOS during my journey to motherhood and I was forced to take a look at my exercise habits and modify them to ensure I was being gentle on my body while still benefiting from movement.
Instead of working out at the same frequency and high intensity, I needed to slow it down and allow my body more rest and recovery. Doing so played a large part in my ability to successfully conceive and carry two children to term. For others, exercise may not be a part of your life, in which case now is a great time to begin to incorporate some gentle workouts into your routine.
Here are a few ideas that worked for me as well as my clients over the years:
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise out there. The benefits of walking are far-reaching, from improved cardiovascular health and weight maintenance to a better mood and decreased joint pain. This is one of the best exercises for those who are TTC.
The practice of yoga is all about the mind-body connection, which is so important on your journey to conception. Yoga allows you to slow down your mind while performing gentle exercises that push your body to stretch and move in a gentle, harmonious fashion.
Yes, you can strengthen your muscles during this phase of life, but the key is to do so intentionally and with the understanding that this likely isn’t going to be the time that you achieve any personal records. Strength training has so many benefits for our bodies, particularly for women who are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis as we age. Improving the strength of our muscles, bones, and ligaments can help us to lose weight, feel less joint pain, and have easier labor when we conceive.
Cycling has been a majorly popular form of home exercise in the last few years. Personally, I have a MYX Fitness Bike and I love their classes and highly recommend them for my clients in the TTC or pre-natal phase. MYX uses your personal heart rate zones to guide your workouts, making them inherently more safe and effective for this more delicate stage of life. The key with spinning, or any kind of cardio for that matter, is to make sure that you’re not over-exerting yourself to the point where you’re doing more harm than good. The MYX system helps keep you in check thanks to their use of HR monitoring. Check out my review of the MYX Fitness Bike for more information.
Never underestimate the power of letting yourself feel the movement of music. Do you need to be a good dancer? Nope! Dancing is a gentle way to add movement into your day that’s not too impactful or shocking to your system. Plus, you’ll love the way it allows you to let go of any stress and anxiety (which is typically high during this time of life) and just be in the moment.
Be Kind To Your Body & Mind While TTC
With emotions running high, exercise and movement can be just the right thing to help you to free yourself of some of that stress and get some good energy flowing through your body.
Safe, gentle, appropriate exercise can be so beneficial for your body, just keep in mind that this might not be the right time to break any personal records or get in the best shape of your life. Your mindset should be one of caring for your body, giving it what it needs to nurture and grow a new life, and that means listening to it and being kind.
Of course, you should always discuss with your doctor before starting any new diet and/or exercise program as your individual situation will vary. When you’re given the go-ahead, get out there, find a workout that fits your personality and needs and go for it!
About Tami Smith
Tami is a mom of two small children, fitness enthusiast, and writer. She is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor, and Pre & Post-Natal Fitness expert. She is on a mission to bring women and moms the health and fitness information they need to succeed and feel great. For more information, visit Tami’s website https://www.fithealthymomma.com/.