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Exercise & Fertility

Date Published: 26 Aug, 2019

At Haynes Acupuncture, we treat a lot of women who are trying to conceive.  By using acupuncture and herbal medicine, we can help to improve levels of fertility by balancing hormones, reducing levels of stress and regulating the menstrual cycle.

Women can optimise their levels of fertility by eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, getting enough sleep and by managing their stress levels.

But what about exercise? Is all exercise good for fertility?

Well, there are studies to suggest that both exercising too much and doing certain types of exercise can actually decrease your levels of fertility.

A large Norwegian study found that high intensity exercise could be linked with lower levels of fertility [1].  Researchers spoke to almost 4000 women under the age of 45 in 1984, then again in 1995. Women who exercised almost daily, for more than 60 mins and to exhaustion were two to three times more likely to have fertility problems.  Those women who exercised with low and moderate intensity had the least issues.

However, there was evidence to show that women who reduced their levels of exercise went on to have children, as the effects of high intensity exercise on fertility were not permanent and reversible.

Another study found that strength exercises can negatively affect ovarian reserve (the number and quality of ovarian follicles) [2].  The researchers split sedentary women into 2 groups, one group exercised with aerobic exercise while the other group did strength training over 16 weeks.  The strength training group had changes in their hormone levels which actually reduced their fertility. 

 So what does Chinese medicine say about exercise?

‘The body should always be exercised…yet even in exercise do not go to extremes’ Ge Hong 283-343

Exercising the body is essential to good health. Traditional practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong go back 2,500 years.  They promote mental and physical wellbeing and increase immunity.  In these exercises, improving the health of the inner body is more important than improving the appearance of the outer body.

Moderation is key in Chinese medicine in all aspects of life and exercise is no different.

We feel good when Qi and blood are moving freely and smoothly.  It can become blocked due to emotional states such as frustration and depression. Exercise can help unblock the stagnation and help you feel energised. However, if we feel more exhausted it shows that our Qi is becoming depleted, so we need to scale back the intensity of the exercise until our energy improves.

 According to the above studies and Chinese medicine, exercising moderately and listening to your body will give you the best chance of optimising fertility.

If you would like to know more, or would like to make an appointment, please contact us on (07) 5531 6461 or book online here.

Written by Mark Sargeant


[1]     S. L. Gudmundsdottir, W. D. Flanders, and L. B. Augestad, “Physical activity and fertility in women: The North-Trøndelag Health Study,” Hum. Reprod., vol. 24, no. 12, pp. 3196–3204, 2009.

[2]      G. Cicek, U. Gorkem, F. Yamaner, A. Gullu, and E. Gullu, “Adverse Effect of Different Exercise Types on Ovarian Reserve,” J. Educ. Train. Stud., vol. 7, no. 1, p. 115, 2018.

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