Should I exercise while trying to conceive?
While in Sydney this weekend to renew my credentials in regards to the work that I do with couples and individuals to create the life they long for, I read an article in the Financial Review about exercise. Now I must admit, I am not an avid reader of the Financial Review but I was waiting for the meeting to start and an article heading had caught my eye and reminded me of a question I get a lot from couples about Exercise. The article was about how exercise in some cases can be bad for you. Now first let me say that this information is no excuse for you to NOT exercise because this is an important part of improving your health as well as your fertility whether weight loss is an issue or not, but it is important to consider what type of exercise would be best for your fertility and overall health. Overall moving the body to burn calories/kilojules is good for overall health. But there are guidelines that are important to consider when beginning or tailoring an exercise program to meet your needs. Speak to your own practitioner who has experience in this area to find out what program is best for you. I have worked with professional athletes and weekend warriors,as well as couples wanting to improve their fertility both in my days as a physio and today. So I have heard all the myths about exercise and hopefully these can answer your questions and dispel some myths that are common when dealing with fertility issues. Myth: All/any exercise is good for you. This is not necessarily true. If you are exercising intensely you can actually create more problems with your hormone levels than if you were exercising moderately. Too much or excessive exercise can contribute to excessive estrogen levels and then if continued over long periods of time can even see the estrogen levels plummetting and creating a deficiency of estrogen. Progesterone deficiency is also likely in this case. This type of exercise throws the body in to a stress response and fertility is secondary to survival. If you haven’t exercised before or in a long time starting on a very strenuous exercise program to begin with can contribute to joint pain, and injuries. It is important to ease your body into a program of exercise and gradually get the muscles, tendons, ligament, and joint used to the increased activity. If you think you can jump right in and do the same exercises you were doing 2, 3, 5, 10 years ago, think again. You may be setting yourself up for failure. For men who ride long distance on their bicycle, this activity may actually effect the health of the sperm secondary to the scrotum heating up while wearing biking shorts. Taking a bit of time off this activity while trying to conceive can improve the sperm count immensely. It is likely that men who have high sperm counts to begin with may not have as much of an issue with cycling but more studies need to be done in this area. Myth: I garden, , am up and down the stairs at work all day, I am constantly cleaning the house, I am running around all day, or I do a lot of lifting at work so I don’t need to do more exercise. Well, actually, even though it is great that you are very active during the day, this doesn’t take the place of a good strengthening program or cardiovascular program to improve your health whether you need to lose weight or not. This type of repetitive exercise is usually anaerobic versus aerobic which means either your heart rate isn’t getting up enough to improve overall health or if it is, it is in short spurts (anaerobic) versus a continuous 30-40 minute span of time. Exercise in short bursts and minimal intensity doesn’t burn as many calories or work the heart muscle as sustained activity at a moderate intensity would. For example a 30-45 walk up and down hills or cycling for a continual 30-45 minutes getting your heart rate up to say 80% of your maximum heart rate would be considered an aerobic activity. Also repetitive exercises like those listed can actually create injuries in the long term if not balanced with stabilisation exercises like pilates, yoga, or other core strengthening exercises. Too much of one kind of exercise, not balanced with the opposite type of exercise can lead to injury and disappointment(for example repetitive exercise should be balanced with stabilisation exercises) Myth: I don’t need to lose weight so I don’t need to exercise. This is a great excuse but unfortunately even though you are thin, this does not exclude you from the benefits of exercise for your health and your fertility. For example, polycystic ovary patients are sometimes very lean. They can have insulin resistance but not gain weight. Their blood vessels are likely weak and they are more susceptible to diabetes, high blood pressure, and other heart issues like their overweight counterparts. Appropriate exercise coupled with an increase in calories of the right kinds of foods (low glycemic foods and foods high in GOOD fats as well as a balance of protein) will improve their health from the inside out and improve their fertility without weight loss. Myth: Resistance training or weight lifting will just make me bulk up and I will gain weight and look like a big body builder. Resistance training or weight lifting by females will not bulk you up like your male counterparts. When coupled with an appropriate eating plan, resistance training can actually help you lose weight and improve the health of your joints. Lifting weight can make your body less insulin resistant and more insulin sensitive. In my opinion its good to alternate this with a couple days of cardiovasular exercise and give the muscle groups worked with resistance training a day of rest in between to recover. Myth: I heard you are not supposed to do heavy weights or even sit ups when pregnant because this might result in a miscarriage. First of all remember once the embryo implants its unlikely to “pop out” secondary to lifting weights. If it is a viable pregnancy it is likely to remain healthy. That being said, the rule of thumb is don’t start a new weight lifting or intense exercise program when you find out you are pregnant. Seek out professional assistance from a qualified person who works a lot with pregnant women to design an appropriate exercise program for you. You should not lift heavy weight anyway if you are not used to it, and be careful of lifting moderately heavy items as well throughout your pregnancy because your ligaments loosen to prepare yourself for delivery and this can lead to injury if you are lifting too much weight and or have poor strenghten in your stabilising muscles. Stabilisation exercises and appropriate sit ups are great to do while pregnant as this will help support the back, decrease chance of injury and some say it can even improve your delivery. Again, always work with a qualified individual or in group classes ALWAYS inform the instructor that you are pregnant. Myth: The harder I exercise the more weight I will lose. I have seen this time and time again where women and men say “Alright, let’s get in to it” and they just go full steam ahead. This again, can put the body in stress mode and result in lots of frustration but little or no weight loss. Best to start slow, adjust your eating plan, supplement appropriatlely with high quality supplements and or herbals to help optimise your health, as well as eliminate old patterns that continue to hold you back and had contributed to a weight issue and/or poor health and gradually the results in improving your health will be seen. Also remember appropriate gear such as supportive footwear is very important when exercising and can lead to more results and less injuries. The bottom line is if you are not sure this isn’t an excuse to not exercise. Seek out help from an experienced and qualified individual. Myth: I just don’t have time for exercise. I can’t carve out 30-45 minutes or go to a gym to do weights so I might as well not do anything. If there is one thing I know about, its having to juggle your life and fit in exercise as a routine. If you can’t get in 30-45 minute walk just walk for as long as you have. Start with a 10 or 15 minutes. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Just start doing something even it you think its small. Then what you will find is gradually you will start feeling better and you will realise that exercise is a major contributing factor to feeling good. This can provide the motivation you need to make consistent exercise more of a priority in your life. In summary, exercising 3-5x’s a week is great. Start with 3 and work your way up. Balance a good cardiovascular program with a resistance training program to include stabilisation exercises coupled with the appropriate eating plan for you and high quality supplementation preferably tested to make sure they actually get absorbed in the body . Consider utilising herbals tailored to your situation as well from an experienced herbalist or naturopath to improve the nutrients in your system and optimise hormone production. Always remember to check with your medical professional when starting any exercise program for guidance. Secondary to your medical history they may want you to undergo some testing before getting started.
Fertility tips are (C) copyright of Stacey Roberts and Positive Image publishing. This material is not to be distributed or reproduced in any fashion without expressed written consent of Stacey Roberts
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