With many women having babies later in life, fertility struggles aren’t uncommon, and many women who are frustrated and emotionally spent from trying to conceive say they cut back on exercise as a way to feel some control over a situation that even doctors have trouble explaining with certainty. This is a normal coping response to a stressful and difficult experience. Ultimately, though, fitness activity is your ally because it relieves stress and helps you maintain a healthy body that can support the growth of a baby. When you think about your workouts, strive to find the mental space between exercise as a stress-buster and workouts that cause anxiety about your fertility. Whether you’re a recreational athlete or an elite competitor, exercise jeopardizes your fertility only when it is the reason that your body doesn’t have enough fat to ovulate and, therefore, conceive.
Most women likely will not have fertility trouble that is exercise-induced. Fertility might become more difficult for those who train at the elite level because their bodies have so little fat, but you can safely maintain a moderate to vigorous fitness program of 4 to 7 days of cardio and strength building exercise per week without concern about conceiving as long as you get enough calories from fat to menstruate. Such a program includes 30- to 45-minute workouts and longer sessions of up to a few hours for endurance athletes. It’s all about fueling to replenish what is burned. However, as mentioned previously, new exercisers should always begin a program gradually, particularly if they’re trying to conceive. As you think about planning your 9-month ultra-event, try to establish a realistic sense of your fitness habits and physical baseline, whether you’re concerned about fertility or looking to determine your pregnancy fitness goals. Print out a calendar and write down your physical activity for the month before conception to get a real idea of your workout baseline.
Establishing your BMI is another good frame of reference for understanding your fitness and health baseline, but keep in mind that the formula and results rely on your height and weight without taking into account your aerobic capacity, genetics, bone mass, or ratio of fat to muscle. Nonetheless, your bodyfat percentage is important information to consider. A healthy woman is 20 to 25 percent body fat, and a specialist can give you a reliable measurement and analysis of your particular case using skinfold calipers, which might look like a torture device but are actually more like tongs.
Your individual body and fertility will probably have different needs and patterns for metabolizing food depending on the type and intensity of your different activities. If you’d like a specific dietary plan for your fertility and fitness routine, get the input of a nutritionist, fertility expert, and/or exercise specialist who can address the specifics of your lifestyle and health. When it comes to your cycle and fertility, individual variation is as important as the energy intake–use relationship.
See the first article on this topic: Exercise, BMI, and Getting Pregnant
Fit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.
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Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.