The impulse to go gangbusters is understandable. Luckily though, starting an exercise regime that makes you weep with fear isn’t wise. And on the flipside, if you’ve been dragging yourself to the gym at 6am every day, you might have an excuse to enjoy a lie-in.
Here are our 5 exercise traps to avoid.
1. Drastic Changes Are The Enemy
This follows on from our email last week about drastic changes to your diet.
Bodies like consistency. If you suddenly begin going to bootcamp fitness sessions 6 times a week, your body has no clue what’s going on. It thinks, “aaah, there must be a war/famine/plague, you’re running for your life!”.
This can disturb your fertility hormones. Hormones run the show, and they are sensitive souls. Think small shifts, not big overhauls.
One exception: if you’re currently overdoing the exercise, dialling it down a lot doesn’t pose the same risk. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
2. “Extremely Heavy” Exercise Can Be Counterproductive
There is a link between hardcore exercise for over an hour a day and disrupted ovulation. Are you exercising so hard that you can’t speak and you’re struggling to suck in enough air? You can consider it extremely heavy.
If you have irregular or missed periods, this could be a sign that you need to ease off. (It could also be something else, so do check with your doctor.)
Is semen quality your focus? Although most advice is aimed at women and birthing parents, this scientific review suggests some consequences for men too. Activities such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT) could make life harder for your swimmers due to oxidative stress and hormonal imbalance.
Again, there’s an exception here. If you’re a professional athlete with no reproductive health issues, feel free to keep doing what you’re doing!
3. So Can Too Much “Vigorous” Exercise
The NHS defines vigorous exercise as any activity where you can only huff out a few words at a time. This varies from person to person, but basically, any activity can become vigorous if you’re pushing yourself hard enough.
If you want to try for a baby soon, this research recommends limiting vigorous exercise to 4 hours a week. Are you within that but don’t have regular periods? It could help to cut back further, while making sure you’re eating enough.
To be clear, some vigorous activity is good. Up to 30-60 minutes a day is associated with reduced risk of ovulation issues.
4. No Exercise At All Isn’t Helpful Either
Tempted to go full couch potato? Alas, movement supports everyone’s health at large, including reproductive health. (And you can ignore the myths about how women shouldn’t do any activities that involve jumping up and down… thanks Victorians.)
5. Cycling Stresses Your Undercarriage
Fact: perineums are not designed to be sat on! Cycling puts pressure on the pudendal nerve in men, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
You can help protect yourself by choosing a wider, rectangular-shaped saddle with extra padding, wearing padded bike shorts, and taking regular breaks on long rides.