Research looks at the role of exercise in the fertility of older women

Think it’s too late to have a baby? Only time can really tell, but the myth that you can only have children when you are younger needs to be shelved for good. The Office for National Statistics reports that the fertility rate for women of 40 and over has risen above that for women aged under 20 for the first time since 1947 (1).


Importance of Exercise

There is also increasing support for the argument that watching your weight and exercising consistently might enhance the possibility of fertility in later years.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina (2) spoke to more than 100 women about to embark on a course of fertility treatment and asked them to describe how active they were.

Walking the dog, shopping and doing the housework all counted alongside more mainstream forms of exercise such as trips to the gym or pool. The findings were striking: those at the most active end of the spectrum were three times more likely to conceive than women at the opposite extreme.
Don’t over-do it!

A 2009 study published in Human Reproduction (3) suggested that fertility is negatively affected by exercise of extreme intensity and frequency.

We are all different – and, of course, anyone with concerns about fertility should first consult their doctor. Even with research still ongoing, there are few hard-and-fast rules for how much or how little to exercise.

Some of the research is inconclusive (4), but most medical professionals suggest that unless you’ve been working out so hard that your periods have stopped or become irregular, it’s best to go with moderate, light yet consistent exercise that you feel good with.


The Perfect Weight for Conception

Another area of contention is whether weight affects fertility (5) . It has been argued that being underweight or overweight can impact your ability to conceive. If you’re at your normal weight (and your cycle is steady), continue with gentle exercise as mentioned above. Underweight means you should try to get back into the normal BMI range (18.5-24.9 as suggested by the NHS (6) ). Overweight prospective mothers should also aim to achieve a BMI in the same healthy range by restricting calories and not over-training.

Fertility in a woman’s forties is not unusual (7). In fact, it very much depends on the individual. Incidence of pregnancy in women aged 40 and over has more than doubled in the past quarter-century: 15 conceptions per 1,000 women aged 40-plus in 2015 compared to six per 1,000 in 1990.

Now that’s food for thought.

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