If you’re trying to get pregnant, you probably know that it’s important to keep track of your cycle and know when you ovulate. It’s also no secret that being healthy and active plays a crucial part in boosting your fertility, but did you know that too much exercise can actually lower your chances of conceiving?
If you enjoy exercise and are trying to conceive, you don’t necessarily have to stop. The strongest impacts on fertility are seen with over-exercising. Above all, talk to your doctor about what makes the most sense for your body.
Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when considering fertility and exercise
1. Watch for anemia
Blood is the essential substance of pregnancy, and as a woman, you use lots of the stuff—especially if you exercise. Your muscles are fed by blood, and heavy exercise routines can deplete your body and leave you feeling exhausted. This, in turn, can result in poor egg health, which can then inhibit pregnancy. Not to mention, genetics, nutrient deficiencies or a heavy menstrual flow can also deplete your iron stores. Testing your iron levels with your birth provider or primary care provider is the first step to understanding where your iron levels are, but keep an eye out for extra fatigue or shortness of breath, too.
Additionally, watch out for the following symptoms of anemia:
- Fast heart rate
- Cold extremities
Talk to your provider if you are concerned, and ask about the possibility of testing and taking iron supplements.
2. Limit your workouts to one hour or less
Workouts should leave you feeling energized, not exhausted. If you work out for too long, your body may end up going into a fight or flight mode that can then activate stress hormones and cause imbalances in your sex hormones. This can make it more difficult to conceive. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix: Keep a little energy to yourself instead of leaving it all on the gym or yoga floor. If you feel your body overworking while exercising, take a break and try again a little later.
3. Favor moderate weight-lifting
Heavy weights have an impact on the endocrine system and can influence the hormones responsible for a healthy menstrual cycle. So if you are trying to conceive and want to keep a regular cycle, keep your weight training workouts to moderate levels, especially if they are high in intensity.
4. Incorporate low-intensity exercise
While it is possible to keep up with moderate and high-intensity workouts while also trying to get pregnant, make sure there’s some low-impact movement worked into your routine, too, in order to allow your body to rest and heal through gentle movement. Yoga, dance and stretching can help foster a healthy mind-body connection which can be especially helpful when embarking on a trying to conceive journey.
5. Run with moderation
Most fertility doctors recommend low-impact cardiovascular exercise, like spinning. But running is actually a great way to keep your heart in great shape and prepare your body for pregnancy. There’s really no reason to stop running if you already do (as long as your provider has given you the green light, of course). That said, if you’ve tried to get pregnant for a while or are experiencing irregular menstrual cycles—two indications that your running habits may be disrupting your endocrine system—your provider may recommend that you cut back.
Don’t worry, though. Cutting back just a few miles, paired with eating more healthy fats, can go a long way in jumpstarting your cycle. Further, if you find yourself feeling tired during a run, walking is another great way to stay energized and prepare your body for the beautiful journey ahead.
A version of this story was originally published on Oct. 13, 2020. It has been updated.