Exercise and Fertility: Is There Really a Link?-image

Exercise and Fertility: Is There Really a Link?

Medically Reviewed by Hertility on March 28, 2024

Exercise can greatly improve your overall health, including your reproductive health. In this article, we’ll break down different types of exercise, their impact on fertility and how to find movement that’s right for you. 

Quick facts:

  • Exercise can be great for menstrual cycle hormones as well as keeping your insulin levels in check.
  • Exercise can also lower stress levels and benefit mental health. 
  • You should try to include a mixture of cardio, strength, and mobility into your training programme. 
  • Ensure you supplement your training with good balanced nutrition that covers your individual caloric needs.

Finding the right exercise for you

We all have different feelings towards exercise. Some of us can’t go a day without it and some of us simply can’t bear it. 

Whichever team you’re on, there’s no denying that exercise comes with some serious health benefits—some of which extend to your fertility and reproductive health. 

But getting the balance right, with the right amount of exercise, supplemented with good quality nutrition that covers your personal energy and calorie requirements is essential. 

We know that finding the right balance for you and your body can be difficult, especially if you’re just getting started with your movement journey. Here we’ll break down some different types of exercise and intensity that you can consider. 

Remember, movement will look different for everyone. If your movement is restricted, you may want to speak to a physio or occupational therapist who can help you find the best way to meet your movement goals.

Is exercise good for fertility?

The health benefits of exercise are too many to mention. It affects every system in your body from your cardiac system to your digestion and even your bone health. 

It would be unfair if your reproductive system didn’t get a share of the health kick you get from your chosen exercise regime but thankfully, it does. 

There is more and more evidence emerging that physical activity and exercise can improve reproductive health and pregnancy rates (1). Some fertility benefits to exercise might be indirect but they are helpful nonetheless.

Insulin regulation

People with a high BMI and elevated blood sugars are known to be at greater risk of fertility challenges. Insulin resistance can affect the maturation of your eggs and inhibit ovulation

Fortunately, regular exercise decreases abdominal fat, blood sugar, and insulin resistance (3). 

Hormone balance 

Regular exercise also increases sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that regulates the amount of testosterone in your tissues (4).

Menstrual cycle benefits

Many studies report that exercise improves menstrual cycle abnormalities including premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and dysmenorrhoea, or period pain (5), as well as reducing the risk of anovulation (failure to ovulate) (6). 

Stress reduction

Exercise is also known to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and greatly improve symptoms of poor mental health and low mood. Reducing chronic stress on the body can do wonders not only for your hormones and reproductive health but your overall health too.

What exercise is good for fertility?

There are different types of exercise, all of which can have benefits for fertility and your reproductive health for different reasons. Let’s take a look at each.

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise

This is generally any exercise that gets your heart beating faster and increases blood flow to your muscles. Cardio is most beneficial for your heart health and blood vessels. It lowers blood pressure, regulates weight, blood sugars, and sleep, boosts mood, and strengthens your immune system. 

All of these benefits will have knock-on benefits to your reproductive health. Brisk walking, running, swimming and cycling all fall into the cardiovascular or aerobic exercise category.
Cardiovascular exercises are important but try to get at least two strength training sessions in a week too.

Strength training 

Strength or resistance training will better protect your bone and muscle health. It will make you stronger and help you to develop better body mechanics. 

Strength training isn’t all about bulking up, using weights and going to the gym. You can start strength training using just your body weight at home or outside. Things like yoga, pilates and tai chi all count as strength training, as well as swimming which is a combination of strength and cardio.

Flexibility and balance

Working on your flexibility and mobility will help avoid injury and, if you’re older, lower your risk of falling. Both can be practised with stretching, yoga, pilates or a dedicated mobility routine. 

If you plan on getting pregnant, strength and flexibility will help your body to adjust to the changes that come with pregnancy.

Types of exercise intensity

Exercise is categorised into three different intensity levels: low, moderate, and vigorous.

We all do some bit of low-intensity exercise, whether that’s doing the housework, doing the shopping or strolling to the bus. Other examples are beginners yoga, tai chi or a casual walk. 

You can make any of these moderate exercises by upping the pace. Moderate exercise can be thought of as anything that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, but not so much that you’re unable to speak without taking a breather. 

Any activity that makes your breathing harder and faster would fall into the vigorous exercise category. Examples include running, rowing, high-intensity interval training and spinning.

The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. As a general rule, try and aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.

If you’ve always been active you can continue your usual training regime at the same level to maintain your health. If you’re new to exercise or you’ve taken a long break from fitness, start to build up your level of activity, starting with low to moderate-intensity exercises.

If you just don’t feel like doing a high-intensity workout today, then don’t do one. Start with some slow exercises, or try some yoga to help calm your mind.

Finding time for exercise

Our lives today have hectic schedules and exercise isn’t at the top of everyone’s priority list. If you can’t squeeze in a training session, remember that some exercise is better than none.

Ask a colleague to join you for a 10-minute brisk walk at lunchtime, take the stairs instead of the lift or consider getting off a stop early on your work commute.

NHS-approved apps for managing and mapping your progress will help you with time management and finding the right exercise regime for you.

Can you do too much exercise? 

A small number of women may experience fertility issues as a result of not having enough fuel for the amount of exercise they are doing. Having very low body fat and BMI can stop you from releasing an egg each month by interrupting the pathways leading to ovulation. This is known as hypothalamic amenorrhoea

Make sure you’re fueling your body enough to support your training. If a mismatch between your energy input (i.e. your calories from food) and your energy output (i.e. the calories burned from exercising) is affecting your ability to get pregnant, you may be advised to cut your exercise. Speak to your GP for more information.

If you’d like to know more about your fertility or have any questions about your overall female health, we’d love to help you out. Our at-home hormone tests can give you an insight into your ovulation, and highlight any red flags relating to fertility. 


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31304974/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4223443/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4625541/ 
  4. https://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13058-015-0647-3 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2662100/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28035585/
Bríd Ní Dhonnabháin

Bríd Ní Dhonnabháin

Bríd is a Senior Scientific Researcher at Hertility, with a BSc (Hons) in Physiology from UCC and a Masters in Reproductive Science and Women’s Health from University College London. Her research interests focus on fertility preservation, tissue cryopreservation, foetal and maternal medicine and sexual health education

  • facebook
  • instagram
  • twitter