The benefits of physical activity have long been known to help with all kinds of health-related issues—from healthy hearts to cancer prevention. It turns out that exercise in the form of a simple walk may help with fertility too.
A study done by the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst looked at the effects of exercise for women trying to conceive, who previously had one or two pregnancy losses.
They found that the only type of physical activity that increased the likelihood of pregnancy in their study, especially for overweight women, was walking.
The study revealed that it's possible the intensity of the walking played a part in improving fertility—more vigorous activity was associated with better outcomes than minimal or moderate activity. As of now, it remains unknown as to why though.
What is important about these findings is that it can help women feel empowered about their journey towards becoming pregnant. So often women struggling infertility report feeling a lack of control—while this isn't the only solution, it is certainly a start.
"Lifestyle is definitely relevant to these outcomes because it can have an effect at the molecular level. What we eat and what we do are potential factors we can change to shape our health. So this sort of research is important because it helps provide information on the things people can actually do something about," says Researcher Brian Whitcomb.
So what does this mean for you?
Unfortunately, this study alone isn't enough to make a blanket statement about exercise for conception. Other researchers have noted that exercise and weight loss can improve conception rates for overweight women, but too much exercise can harm fertility. In the words of one large overview study, Sharma and colleagues wrote, "Exercise is suggested to be beneficial, though too much may be detrimental."
And hey—woman to woman, I understand that this is frustrating.
It's really hard to want something so strongly, and not have a definite way to make it happen. Figuring out that line of how much is too little and how much is too much is exhausting.
Honestly, sometimes I think studies like this help us to see that you're not doing it wrong, sometimes it's just that hard. There is no simple solution. But there is hope.
Talk to your health care provider about these findings to see if they might be helpful for you. And remember: You're not alone. You've got this.