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Exercise and Fertility: Enhancing Conception with Physical Activity

Jessica Joseph, RN, BSN, MHA
August 6, 2023
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Finding the right balance between exercise, nutrition, and sleep can empower individuals to take control of their reproductive health.   Healthcare experts encourage exercise for innumerable benefits, including prevention of heart disease, bone and muscle strength, and improved brain function.


Exercise and Reproductive Health

Exercise has a critical link to fertility that is easily overlooked.  Adhering to a consistent exercise routine minimizes the chances of infertility.  Physical activity can help achieve a healthy weight optimal for conception, manage stress and reduce cortisol levels, improve sperm health, and promote conception.


According to the Journal of Translational Medicine, physical activity improves fertility by:


  • Strengthening antioxidant defense which is vital for fertility

  • Increasing immune function and reducing inflammation

  • Regulating critical hormones that affect ovulation and sperm production

Exercise has proven benefits with certain conditions that can impair fertility, such as endometriosis and PCOS. This is due to the effect exercise has on hormone regulation, including insulin, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol.  If these hormones are regulated via exercise, along with proper nutrition and adequate sleep, it can help promote ovulation and sperm production. 


Yoga for Fertility

Yoga has innumerable benefits for fertility by toning the body, increasing blood flow to the reproductive tract, and reducing cortisol levels.  According to the Journal for Alternative Therapies and Medicine, yoga may increase the success rate of fertility treatments such as IVF. 


Trying to conceive naturally or with assisted reproductive therapy (ART) may create anxiety, stress, and depression.  Yoga, along with meditation, can raise endorphins and reduce cortisol, which can help women deal with the emotional and psychological aspects of infertility. 


Female physiology that specifically benefits from yoga include softening of the muscles in the vaginal wall, increasing blood flow to the pelvis, muscle relaxation of the inner thighs, stretching the hips, and elongating the lower back to increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.


Fertility-promoting yoga poses include:

  • Cobra pose

  • Goddess pose

  • Bridge pose

  • Warrior II

  • Frog Pose

  • Supta Baddha Konasana

Below are video links for guided fertility yoga that can be practiced at home:

1. Twenty minute Yoga for Fertility

2. Ten minute Yoga for Ovulation, Fertility, and Conceiving


Physical Activity for Fertility

Ideally, individuals struggling to conceive should aim to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times weekly, such as walking, running, or swimming.  In conjunction with aerobic exercise, moderate strength training with or without weights should be incorporated.


Most people can initiate an exercise routine; however, many do not adhere to it for an extended period. Creating an exercise routine that is enjoyable and attainable is key to compliance.    To reap the long term fertility benefits, consistency is key.  Some tips for exercise compliance include:

1. Set Realistic Goals: Set achievable and realistic exercise goals with specific targets for your workouts (frequency, duration, and intensity). This will help you stay motivated and track your progress.


2. Find Your Niche: Choose activities you love. Whether dancing, swimming, cycling, or playing a sport, finding activities you look forward to will make it easier to stick to your exercise routine.


3. Schedule It: Treat your exercise routine like any other important appointment. Set aside dedicated time for physical activity in your daily or weekly schedule and make it a non-negotiable commitment.


4. Connect: Find a workout friend or join a fitness group. Exercising with a partner or in a group can provide motivation and accountability and make your workouts more enjoyable. Plus, it's a great way to socialize and have fun while staying active.


5. Switch It Up: Avoid boredom and plateaus by incorporating variety into your exercise routine. Try different types of workouts, alternate between cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises, and explore new fitness classes or activities.


6. Track Your Progress: Record your workouts using a fitness app or invest in a wearable device; monitoring your achievements can motivate and help you stay on track.


7. Make it Convenient: Choose exercise options that are easily accessible and convenient for you. This could mean finding a gym or fitness center close to your home or workplace, having exercise equipment at home, or utilizing nearby parks or trails for outdoor activities.


8. Be Flexible: Life can sometimes throw curveballs, and it's important to be flexible with your exercise routine. If you miss a scheduled workout, don't get discouraged. Instead, find alternative ways to stay active or adjust your schedule accordingly.


9. Celebrate Milestones: Celebrate your achievements along the way. Whether it's reaching a fitness milestone, completing a challenging workout, or sticking to your routine consistently, reward yourself and acknowledge your progress to stay motivated and inspired.


Conversely, over-exertion with exercise can be detrimental to fertility. It is important not to workout vigorously, especially if you have irregular periods.  Creating a sensible workout regimen that includes moderate physical activity should be the goal.

Pregnancy and Exercise

Once a good exercise routine is established, women may have an easier pregnancy with fewer complications if the routine is continued. Women who maintain good exercise and proper nutrition may have less chance of developing common pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Once pregnant, it is best practice to consult your physician about which types of exercise are safe during pregnancy or visit the American Pregnancy Association website for more guidance.


Darbandi S, Darbandi M, Khorram Khorshid HR, Sadeghi MR. Yoga can improve assisted reproduction technology outcomes in couples with infertility. Altern Ther Health Med. 2018 Jul;24(4):50-55. PMID: 29112941.


Xie, F., You, Y., Guan, C. et al. Association between physical activity and infertility: a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. J Transl Med 20, 237 (2022).

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