Exercising while Trying to Conceive
Exercise during the time before conception, and then immediately afterward, is a topic that is close to my heart.
Years ago, as I started my book about preconception health, sorting out fact from fiction when it came to good, reputable studies about the positive effects of exercise on the body of the mum-to-be was a top priority.
You see, I have always been a fairly active person. Or, shall I say, a sporadically active person. When I’m into the habit, I enjoy exercise 6-7 days a week. But, admittedly, there are times when I let excuses get the better of me and spend more time enjoying a lazy day on the sofa than a heart pumping hike around town or in the local parks.
In my search for the best exercises to do during that all-important preconception period, I found that there weren’t nearly as many reputable studies as I’d like. Add to that, popular women’s magazines would often spout some random European study that recommended scrapping light hand weights and a daily walk for fear of doing harm to the possible gorgeous little embryo fighting to implant itself in the uterine lining.
This past month I was struck again by the flippant advice in my favourite magazine. Case in point: The May 2010 issue of Shape magazine (honestly, one of my top picks for practical advice) had a small section on page 90 entitled ‘Be a Fit Mom’ espousing the “new exercise rules” which included advice for those trying to conceive, those already pregnant and those new mums who were breast feeding.
What bothers me more than the advice for those trying to conceive (that those actively trying to conceive should exercise at moderate intensity as opposed to going all out), is the fact that they simply toss in one line about Swedish researchers without any further information on the details of the study or any mitigating factors that explain what causes and effects their advice is based on.
Even when advice seems to be supported by commonsense, I’m always somewhat suspicious of research findings that come without details, such as the size of the study (was it based on a group of 25 women or 2500?) or where the research was originally published (online or in a reputable journal such as the Journal of the American Medical Association?)
Often when we suffer from miscarriage (my personal story to come in a later post), we look at our own actions as part of the grappling with the immense guilt that we can feel as a result of losing a pregnancy. Too frequently, well-intentioned friends and family may bring up our activities as well, which can sometimes serve to play into our grief and leave us feeling as if we could have done something to stop it all. It feels as if the buck, and the blame, stops with us.
And therein lies why articles such as these cause me to get defensive for other women out there on their own conceivery path.
Here’s my advice (which you should double check with your own doctor because all our medical histories are different): If you exercised regularly before trying to conceive (which is the advice I provide in my book) then continue. If you are a couch potato, perhaps start with something small–get active by taking a nice walk three or four times a week at a pace where you can still talk comfortably, but are moving faster than if you were on a window shopping expedition. If, however, you are more of an athlete, say a runner, you can keep running. Don’t try out new, more intense trails or longer runs than normal, but if you are already in good physical health, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to continue to exercise in the way that your body is accustomed.