Posted on September 3, 2009
In the preceding centuries, tremendous physical activity was required for human survival, and yet, reproduction carried on. Imagine the exhaustion and stress if we had to spend one week hunting or farming with few tools or resources. Yet probably, under these conditions, most women would be able to get pregnant.
Excessive extreme exercise causing weight loss will cause ovulation to stop because the body figures that there are not enough nutrients stored for both the woman and a fetus. If she can just barely feed herself, she can't feed the growing baby. The same is true for an anorectic. But here we are talking about extreme extreme. Moderate exercise is fine.
Surprising to me, I did come across a paper from Harvard showing that women who underwent moderate levels of exercise had lower pregnancy rates that those who did not. Like we always say, it's just one paper. I do not really believe it. The Harvard doctors that I know do not restrict moderate exercise.
Exercise is bad if you are taking fertility drugs because the medications make the ovaries grow. Normally the ovaries are about the size of a walnut, and the drugs increase the number of follicles, therefore the ovarian size increases. Sometimes the ovaries can get to the size of plums or even oranges. They hang inside the pelvis. As they become heavier, they become more likely to twist, and this is called torsion. Here the twisting cuts off the blood supply and causes the ovary to choke. This really hurts, and is treated by laparoscopy. Exercise will increase the odds of this twisting. So in this case, exercise is not good.
Exercise increases blood flow to all areas of the body. The uterus and ovaries are organs that would love to get as much blood flow as they could.
Exercise clears you head. Yes, endorphins are released with strenuous activity, and these can help us fell better, but I think it's more than that. My theory is that it's not just about increasing the good chemicals; it's about getting rid of the bad. Increased blood flow flushes away the old stale thought chemicals that are just hanging around causing trouble. Get rid of them.
Even better, do exercise that requires tremendous concentration. This really clears you head. Any sport will do: sailing, golf, soccer, basketball, biking, you name it. Some are more strenuous than others, but they all work. Same thing; flood your brain with fresh blood and new thoughts, lose the waste products.
Exercise builds muscle mass. This is also good. It just makes you feel better if you have a little tone. Even if you think you are fat, the tone goes a long way. It's healthier to have some tone and muscle. It helps with balance and lowers you chances of getting injured during an accident (falling, for example).
And people with a little tone just age better.
Not to mention all of the obvious benefits of upping your cardio-vascular reserve.
I am not an expert in Yoga, although I have happily done it a few times. It's very good alternative.
So you don't have time for exercise? Yes you do, make time. If you are tired, go to gym tired, it works just as well. You will sleep better.
If you do decide to take my advice (and the advice of others), go all out. A little exercise once a week is better than nothing, but more is better. You need at least 2 sessions per week of vigorous activity to really make a difference. Don't start on any aggressive workout without checking with our doctor first, and consider a trainer at least initially.
See disclaimer 5/17/06 and Happy Workout.
By Fred Licciardi, M.D., author of the Infertility Blog