Are Sedentary Lifestyles the New Cause For Infertility?

In recent years, our modern-day, often sedentary lifestyles, has been said to be just as impactful on our health as smoking. But, could a sedentary lifestyle be a root cause of your infertility? Could the lack of daily movement impact your ability to get pregnant? Let’s dive in. 

Researchers have found that moderate physical activity has been associated with an improvement in semen quality. This means that, if you are currently struggling with an abnormal or suboptimal semen analysis, making sure to incorporate moderate physical activity on a daily basis could improve your chances of conception. That being said, this appeared to make the biggest difference on natural conception rather than during assisted fertility treatments, according to this study. In fact, researchers found that simply increasing your physical activity alone did not improve reproductive success rates for couples undergoing fertility treatments, like IVF. However, this study evaluated the frequency of physical activity but did not take into consideration weight management benefits involved with regular physical activity. When we take into consideration the benefits that daily moderate exercise has on weight management, there was an improvement in both male and female infertility, both for natural conception as well as assisted fertility treatment. So, should daily movement be a priority if you are struggling to get pregnant? The short answer is.. Absolutely! 

We know that obesity is often, but not always, associated with sedentary lifestyles. Being overweight or obese has been well documented to be associated with infertility in both men and women. In men, obesity has been associated with a reduction in semen quality, sperm concentration and mobility as well as DNA damage. In women, obesity has been linked to poor oocyte (egg) quality, impaired ovulation and difficulty with implantation. This again points to the importance of weight management and moderate physical activity being a top priority for couples struggling to conceive. This may also be the reason your doctor may recommend weight loss management before further fertility treatments are performed or indicated. Although you might feel as though they are “fat shaming”, the reality is fertility treatments are extremely expensive, mentally, physically, and financially, and your doctor is considering all the available research to determine your success rates with treatment. The problem unfortunately occurs with the lack of guidance or support. Doctors may tell you to lose weight but often don’t make time to explain what weight loss goals they have for you and how to accomplish it. This can be extremely frustrating for couples who have been battling with infertility for months, if not years. 

So, is it really all about calories in and calories out and hours of exercise each and every day? The short answer is… no. 

When it comes to weight loss management and sedentary lifestyles, at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, we help provide our patients with actionable step-by-step guidelines that not only help them reach their goals, but help them rebuild their relationship with their health. So often, couples struggling with obesity and sedentary lifestyles, are shamed into thinking that it’s “their fault” they aren’t getting pregnant, instead of providing them empowering advice that will not only help them make lifestyle modifications, but help them get one step closer to that healthy and happy baby that they so desperately deserve. 

Now, what if you are struggling with a sedentary lifestyle but aren’t struggling with obesity? Would increasing your physical activity still improve your ability to conceive? The answer is… most likely. After working with hundreds of patients, at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, we have found a clear positive correlation between combating sedentary living and an increase in conception, both with natural and assisted fertility treatments. 

But, could you overdo it? Absolutely! We know that exercise and physical activity is a natural form of stress on the body. This is a powerful and important stressor but it should always be done in moderation. So, avoiding spending hours at the gym is most likely a must. Instead, we have found patients do best when they focus on incorporating 15-20 minutes of moderate physical activity daily (yep, that’s 7 days a week), while also reducing their sedentary or stationary sitting time to no more than 1 hour. This means, it’s important to take the time to walk around the room and stretch your legs for at least 3-5 minutes every hour. For those of you who may be used to a sedentary lifestyle, this might seem nearly impossible and may feel like a waste of time during a busy work day, but studies have shown that not only is regular movement beneficial for your physical health but it is just as beneficial for your mental health as well. If you are struggling with feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed, taking just a few moments every hour to move your body can be a great way to help you recharge and reset, without requiring you to spend 3 hours at the gym. 

Making time for regular moderate activity is something we have found to be extremely beneficial for our fertility patients. Although the majority of the researcher does provide evidence that completing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week is best, in our clinic, we believe that consistency with regular daily movement is most important. This means that although 150 minutes is the gold standard, we believe the best benefit comes when you are able to split up those 150 minutes evenly throughout the week (that’s about 20 minutes daily). And although researchers used to believe that working out for an hour, three times a week was best, due to our increase in sedentary living, moving your body each and everyday is most likely the most beneficial for your health and your fertility.

Some common examples of moderate physical activity to consider include: 

  • Walking two miles in 30 minutes.

  • Biking five miles in 30 minutes.

  • Swimming laps for 20 minutes.

  • Running one and a half miles in 15 minutes.

  • Doing water aerobics for 30 minutes.

  • Playing volleyball for 45 minutes.

  • Playing basketball for 20 minutes.

  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes.

We love the idea of group fitness classes, online apps and accountability pods to help you stay motivated and on top of your health. If you are in need of additional support or accountability and interested in truly transforming your health and your fertility, make sure to use the link below to apply to work with us as a patient.

About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...