How can exercise help to improve male fertility?
Studies have shown that physical inactivity (i.e. not exercising enough and or spending too much of your time sedentary when not exercising) can cause various risks to male fertility. It can contribute to health conditions such as obesity, oxidative stress and cardiovascular disease that can be factors of infertility. This was indicated in a study conducted on 1,210 men to see if watching TV for over 5 hours would have an impact on their sperm. The results showed a shocking decrease in the total sperm count and progressively motile sperm cells. This being said, you can most definitely still watch TV and do leisurely activities so long as you have good time management and you stay active outside of leisure time. Over-indulging in this activity can cause a 35–44% reduction in sperm quality and quantity, so keep sedentary activities to a minimum.
However, just like women, men are advised to do moderate, low-level exercise too. High-intensity exercise could affect the temperature of your testicles, which, if it becomes too high, is known to destroy sperm. A recent study showed that recreational activity showed far more fertility benefits in men than either low or intense activity. This study was performed on 161 men and showed that recreational activity could improve total motile sperm cells by 200%. Over-exercising can negatively impact sperm, as you increase oxidative stress by not allowing your body sufficient time to recover. It can also cause fatigue, a decrease in semen quality and a decrease in testosterone levels.
So, as it stands, moderate but regular exercise seems to have the best results for improving male fertility. Read below for moderately intensive exercises to try.
Why is exercise important for female fertility?
Strenuous or intense exercise for four or more hours a week can have a negative impact on your IVF success, menstrual cycles and stress levels. When trying to conceive (TTC) or going through IVF cycles, it is advised that you participate in more moderate exercise but on a regular basis i.e. 20 minutes of daily yoga. If you are a highly active person, you will need to consult your doctor about reducing your exercise regime gradually.
But this doesn’t mean that all exercise has a bad impact on your fertility; in fact, the truth is quite the opposite. Moderate exercise can reduce stress levels (stress is a contributor to infertility) and it can help regulate your menstrual cycle. This is thought to be because exercise helps to reduce cortisol levels by releasing endorphins and thereby supporting ovulation.
So what’s the key thing here? When TTC, less than 4 hours of exercise a week can really help to improve your fertility. Any weekly exercise above 5 hours has been found to worsen IVF success rates, though. One study found that women who were highly active had their chances of a successful birth reduced by 40% when compared to other women who exercised less during their IVF cycle. These same women who overexercised were more likely to suffer pregnancy loss or implantation failure.
If you are undergoing sensitive clinical treatments, always consult with your doctor about what you should do. Some infertility specialists may advise that you stop working-out altogether during the more important stages of IVF or the two week wait (TWW). Whereas, if you are looking to conceive aturally or are inbetween treatments, moderate exercise can help to improve fertility.
There are specific, clinician-led programs available that can help you support your body and just start to feel better in yourself, whilst on a fertility journey. The V-Hive Membership is created by Dr Sara Reardon, Board-Certified Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist and founder of the Vagina Whisperer. Signing up for the Membership lets you access gentle, guided workouts for your pelvic floor and core, targeting core strengthening, improving blood flow to the pelvic region and reproductive organs, and easing tension and pain during sex.
Does any of this resonate? Head over to sign up for a V-Hive Membership, choose your program, and get the first week free!
Now, let’s take a look at some of the exercises that can be safe to try while TTC.