We all know that exercise is important — for pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and after the baby is born. There is no debating the importance of being active and staying fit, but did you know that it could delay pregnancy?
According to a study released earlier this month in the journal Fertility and Sterility, high levels of vigorous exercise (running, fast cycling and aerobics) may be the reason for low fertility rates among normal-weight women. Overweight or obese women, according to the study, did not have their fertility hindered when they logged vigorous workouts, but the same was not said for healthy-weight women who performed the same intense workouts.
The study was led by U.S. and Danish researchers who tracked physical activity and fertility in thousands of Danish women. Lead by Lauren Wise, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, the team administered questionnaires to 3,628 women ranging in age between 19 – 40-years old. Each woman was in a stable relationship with a male partner and were planning to become pregnant but were not involved in any fertility treatments.
At the beginning of the study, the participants were asked questions about their exercise routine: average hours per week, types of activities. Running, fast cycling, aerobics, gymnastics and swimming were considered vigorous activities for this study. Brisk walking, leisurely cycling, golfing and gardening were defined as moderate. Each participant was categorized by their exercise level and their body mass index.
While moderate physical activity was linked to becoming pregnant faster across all BMI ranges, the researchers found that there was an “inverse association” between vigorous physical activity and how long it took to become pregnant for normal-weight women (a BMI under 25). In overweight or obese women, there was no link between vigorous exercise and a longer time to pregnancy.
Lead researcher Lauren Wise said, “Our study found that higher levels of vigorous exercise were associated with lower fertility rates in normal-weight women, but not overweight and obese women.” She noted that physical activity of any kind may improve fertility among heavier women, those of a normal-weight may want to stick to moderate-level exercises to improve their pregnancy odds. Adding that while vigorous exercise may delay menstruation and ovulation, it is also thought to impair the implantation process when an fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall.
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