Exercise and its Benefits on Fertility Health


The nature of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment tends to make you become hypersensitive when a cycle fails. I was advised to avoid strenuous exercise and the sauna after each cycle of my embryo transfer. I mainly did yoga and strength training at the time. But when a cycle failed there was that lingering question, “did I overdo it?” Fortunately, the existing literature suggests that physical activity before and during IVF has either “no effect” or a “positive effect” on pregnancy outcomes. But what if you are trying to conceive naturally or have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Exercise and Overall Well Being

Exercise is incredibly beneficial for physical and mental fitness, to de-stress, improve sleep, as well as keep your heart, lungs, and muscles healthy. There are several types of exercise and all are beneficial. Aerobic exercise, also known as “cardio” or “endurance” exercise, helps to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm. Examples of aerobic exercises include biking, swimming, running, and climbing stairs. Another type of exercise is strength or “resistance” training such as pushing or pulling weights or other heavy objects (like groceries). This is known to help build and maintain strong bones.

The Benefits of Exercise on Reproductive Health Include:

  • Improves Overall Health- regular moderate exercise can contribute to overall health, which is a key factor in fertility.
  • Maintains Healthy Weight- exercise helps in maintaining a healthy weight, and obesity has been linked to fertility issues.
  • Regulates Hormones- exercise can help regulate hormones such as insulin, cortisol, and sex hormones, which play a role in fertility.
  • Enhances Blood Circulation- good blood circulation is crucial for reproductive organs, and exercise contributes to improved circulation.
  • Stress Reduction- exercise is known to reduce stress levels, and high stress can negatively impact fertility.

Adequate Calories During Luteal Phase

So physical activity is beneficial, but what factors do we need to take into consideration? For healthy women trying to conceive, one important factor to consider is calories. A calorie deficit as a result of moderate to vigorous physical activity can have a detrimental effect on the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. The luteal phase is usually about 12 to14 days long. During this time, your ovaries make a hormone called progesterone. It tells the lining of your uterus to thicken in preparation for a fertilized egg to implant. A luteal phase defect (i.e. <10 days long) can happen if your ovaries don’t release enough progesterone, or if the lining of your uterus doesn’t respond to the hormone. Due to the negative effect of vigorous exercise on reproductive hormones, this underscores the need to consume adequate calories to match the intensity of your workout. Your daily total calories should be taken into account the calories expended during a workout session.

Adequate Calories During Follicular Phase

Consuming adequate calories is also crucial during the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle. Nutrition plays a role in the growth of the follicles in the ovaries. The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle is the first day of your period. It lasts for 12 to 14 days, ending in ovulation (i.e. when an egg is released from the ovary). In a natural cycle (i.e. without the use of hormones to stimulate follicles to grow) one follicle will mature into an egg. Prenatal nutrition is not just crucial while pregnant, but before becoming pregnant too. Before pregnancy, a nutrient-dense diet not only meets your needs, but also lays down essential nutrients for a future baby’s development.

Physical Activity & PCOS

What about those with PCOS? Does exercise benefit those with PCOS while trying to conceive? One study emphasizes that engaging in vigorous activity may have greater benefits than moderate activity on improving ovulation. A minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 times per week increase the chances of conception among overweight women with PCOS. Also resistant training (i.e. >50hours of moderate to vigorous exercise over 1 month) will help improve androgen levels (i.e. male sex hormone). Even in the absence of weight loss, your engagement in exercise is likely to improve your chances of conceiving. Other benefits of exercise in the presence of PCOS include improvement with menstruation and insulin sensitivity.

Exercise along with a well planned diet can help enhance your fertility. It’s worthwhile to make the necessary lifestyle modification to improve your odds of conceiving naturally. Besides exercise and diet, start tracking your monthly cycle to determine your fertile window.


  • Xie, F., You, Y., Guan, C., Gu, Y., Yao, F., Xu, J. (2022). Association between physical activity and infertility: a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Translational Medicine. 20, 1-13
  • The Office on Women’s Health (OWH). (2023, November). Weight, fertility, and pregnancy. https://www.womenshealth.gov/healthy-weight/weight-fertility-and-pregnancy
  • Cleveland Clinic Healthy Brains. (2023, November). 6 pillars of brain health. https://healthybrains.org/pillars/
  • Mussawar, M., Balsom, A.A., Totosy de Repetnek, J.O., Gordon, J.L., (2023). The effect of physical activity on fertility: a mini-review. Fertil Steril Rep. 4(2), 150-158
  • The Office on Women’s Health (OWH). (2023, November). Trying to conceive https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-get-pregnant/trying-conceive

Hi, I’m Katelyn! Empowering your fertility journey with tailored nutrition guidance, A&N Nutrition Service offers specialized support for women undergoing fertility treatments.

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