Movement and Exercise
Exercise has been called “the miracle cure” by health researchers because of its positive health impacts. Since your physical and mental health are so important to your fertility health, you should consider how you include exercise in your routine.
The word exercise may be off-putting for some people, triggering bad memories of school PE classes. However, when you consider that you can exercise for free, easily integrate it into your day and that it has so many benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing it’s time to think about it differently.
The good news is that, unlike your schooldays, you get to choose what kind of exercise you do, when, where, and what to wear while doing it! The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges says that even small amounts of regular exercise – five periods of thirty minutes each week for adults – can bring “dramatic benefits.”
Exercise and Your Microbiome
Exercise independently alters the composition and functional capacity of the gut microbiota. One researcher found that the gut microbiota of professional rugby players had greater alpha diversity and a higher relative abundance of 40 different bacterial taxa than the gut microbiota of secondary lean males. These rugby players also had a lower abundance of Bacteroides and lactobacillus species than their lean sedentary counterparts. While not everyone is a rugby player, this research demonstrates the impact exercise can have on microbiome.1
In women, one study observed that women who performed at least 3 hours of exercise per week had increased levels of faecalibacterium prausnitzii, roseburia hominis, and akkermansia muciniphila. These microbes all correlate back to a healthy microbiome. Overall, there is significant evidence that in younger adults, microbial diversity and abundance of butyrate-producing bacterial taxa were positively correlated with cardiorespiratory fitness.1
While not everyone finds joy in exercising, there are many activities you can do to improve your physical and mental health. Even something as simple as exercising outside, or gardening, has the bonus of being able to pick up bacteria you might otherwise not be exposed to from the everyday environment around you. This is great for people who enjoy bike riding, going on walks, or hiking.2
Exercise and Your Fertility Health
Yoga is an excellent way to improve your reproductive health for both men and women. Yoga acts on the endocrine axes to improve reproductive functions in males. It also helps to improve reproductive health by improving reproductive behaviour, mood, and by reducing anxiety and stress. Some yoga poses can increase sperm count and quality; yoga triggers neurohormonal mechanisms that are known to reduce stress and anxiety, improves autonomic functions and thus, improves reproductive health.3
Many fertility clinics offer fertility yoga as a service because of various studies that indicate yoga can help couples undergoing fertility treatments. There are several benefits to practising yoga while trying to get pregnant. Yoga reduces stress, improves circulation, helps flush out toxins, balances hormones, and allows you to reconnect with yourself. This is perfect for women trying to prepare for pregnancy.4
Below are a few poses to try that are known to boost fertility health. These are all simple poses that even those who are new to yoga can enjoy!
- Paschimottanasana: This pose stretches the lower back muscles, hips and hamstrings; it reduces mental stress and is good for parts of your reproductive system like the ovaries and the stomach.
- Janu Sirsasana: This pose stretches the calves and hamstrings and is great for relaxing muscles.
- Baddha Konasana (butterfly pose): This pose stretches the muscles of your inner thighs, hips, knees and genitals. Practising this regularly can also help in a smoother delivery process when the time comes!
- Bhramari Pranayama: This pose helps improve breathing and reduce stress levels.
- Supta Baddha Konasana: This pose helps to open up the hip area. It stretches the inner thigh muscles and helps to reduce stress and bloating.
Balasana (child’s pose): This pose stretches the muscles of your thighs, knees, back and hips. It is a very relaxing and centring pose.
How to bring more exercise and movement into your life
There is more than one way to exercise and move, so feel free to try a few different types to find what works best for you.
- Make exercising social – having an accountability buddy that you go to exercises classes or walking with could give you the extra encouragement you need.
- Incorporate movement into your day. Set a reminder to move, stretch, and walk around if your job is desk-based.
- Try a step challenge with family, friends or work colleagues to get your daily step count up.
- Make working out more attractive by making it the time when you listen to your favourite podcast or watching a show that you love.
- Aim for five 30 minute periods of activity a week.
- According to the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, you can get the same benefits if you break the 30 minutes into 10-15 min periods also – so no excuses not to fit more exercise into your day!
- Try an online yoga or exercise class, search YouTube and Instagram for a free class that suits your fitness level and lifestyle.
Before taking up any new exercise regime consult with your doctor.
Exercise benefits so many other areas which also impact your fertility health, including sleep, lifestyle and support. The key is to make it a part of your life that you look forward to, something you want to do rather than something that you feel like you should or have to do.
- Impact of Physical Activity and Exercise on Male Reproductive Potential: a New Assessment Questionnaire1
- Is Hiking the New Yoga? How Hiking Helps Your Mind, Body, and Microbiome2
- Male Reproductive Health and Yoga3
- Yoga and Fertility: Asanas to Help Boost Fertility in Women4 (https://www.aomrc.org.uk/reports-guidance/exercise-the-miracle-cure-0215/)