When looking to boost your fertility, one would assume becoming as fit and healthy as possible is the ideal. This is somewhat true, however it’s not the entire picture.
As with everything, too much of a good thing isn’t good any more. Exercise can have a positive effect on the body when trying to conceive, it can help to keep weight at a healthy level, and it can also help to reduce stress. However, if you’re planning on conceiving, then it may be worthwhile to consider that extreme exercise can lead to numerous issues that may affect your fertility.
Over-exercising can have a negative effect on ovulation, causing the body not to ovulate regularly. This, in turn, reduces the chances of getting pregnant. There are many reasons why a female would not ovulate regularly, and a few of them can be linked to over-exertion on the body. Over-exertion and over-exercising can disrupt regular hormone balance. This disruption in hormone balance could lead to reduced progesterone production during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This can then lead to Luteal Phase defect.
The Luteal Phase is the time between ovulation and expected period. Progesterone levels usually remain high during this time, and this will allow a fertilised egg to attach itself to the lining of the womb. Decreased progesterone levels will have a negative effect on egg implantation and can lead to infertility.
Luteal Phase Defect- Denver Holistic Medicine
Another potential cause of exercise-induced infertility is a drop in the hormones which influence female reproduction. These hormones are:
  • GnRH
  • LH
  • FSH
  • Estradiol
Over-exercising can potentially lead to interference with fertility and disrupt hormonal transformation. Below is a diagram showing how GnRH which is produced by the Hypothalamus, stimulates the pituitary gland to produce LH and FSH.
Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
As mentioned previously, exercise can be good for the body and conceiving when it’s done in moderation. If you are planning on conceiving and currently partake in a regular high intensity exercise regime, it would be recommended that you discuss this regime with your healthcare provider.
As mentioned, exercise is good when it’s done in moderation. Over-exertion on the body can cause a major impact on female infertility, but is this the same for men?
Over the last couple of years we have become a nation of gym go-ers and, let’s face it, the overall goal for the majority of men in the gym is to lift the heaviest weight to get the biggest ego boost. So, has all this weight-training and extreme dieting to get minus percent body fat had an effect on male fertility? Not directly, but the use of performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids could be classed as a significant contributor to male infertility.
Males who use anabolic steroids are doing detrimental damage to their testicles. Anabolic steroids work almost like a contraceptive for males. The use of these steroids also plays havoc with male reproductive hormones. For example, sperm are made when the brain hormones such as Luteinizing Hormones (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) work directly with the testicles in order to produce the hormone testosterone.
When males (and females) use steroids, it sends a message to the testicles to tell them that they no longer need to produce testosterone. When this occurs, the amount of testosterone in the testicles is extremely low, although the levels of testosterone will be normal to very high in the bloodstream. Subsequently, FSH is not produced, which in turn causes the testicles to shrink and very little sperm to be produced.
However, it has been shown that these negative effects can be reversed in many cases. As with most things, the longer the substance is used and the higher the dose, this may cause the effects to be irreversible. The important message to take from this is: do not experiment with anabolic steroids - the effects can be extremely severe. If you have experimented with anabolic steroids in the past, it is recommended that you consult your GP for a consultation.
Fertility Specialist