As much pressure as there is out there to eat healthy and lose weight, I think there is also some amount of pressure to eat junky foods and park your butt on the couch. I'm talking about turning down dessert, or refraining from a doughnut or cheese dip during office potlucks. People look at me like I'm crazy if I don't attack the sweets and stuff my face.
The same can be said about my running. "You're running again?" "I only run when I'm being chased!" "you must be crazy!" and, my favorite: "Do you think the running has anything to do with.... [insert euphemism for infertility here]?"
I know with that last question that the people who ask it are probably genuinely trying to help. And it is a fair enough question - there is a lot of information (and misinformation) about exercise and infertility. So I've decided to do a bit of investigation to ensure I'm making an informed decision when I go out for a run... and also to have a well-researched response to folks who suggest that being active has somehow hurt my chances for baby.
General Guidelines for Exercise
The CDC recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 1.25 hours of vigorous aerobic activity every week for good health benefits. For even BETTER health benefits, the CDC recommends 5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 2.5 hours at vigorous intensity per week. There's more info about what constitutes moderate and vigorous activity, but jogging / running falls into the vigorous category.
Another CDC page (here) says that people who are active "about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week." So, in general, exercise = good.
Exercise + Fertility
The Mayo Clinic states that more than 7 hours a week of aerobic exercise is associated with infertility.
After a little more digging, I happened upon this article from the American Journal of Public Health. It's called "Exercise as a risk factor for infertility with ovulatory dysfunction." The study looks at a bunch of women who have an infertility problem - specifically with ovulatory issues (ahem, me) - next to a control group of women without infertility problems, and compares their exercise habits, with other controls for all sorts of stuff. Here's the result I care about the most:
Compared with non-exercisers (who they define as people who exercise vigorously for fewer than 7 minutes per day), with a baseline risk of "1":
- people who exercise on average between 8 and 60 minutes per day have a lower risk at 0.6
- people who exercise on average more than 60 minutes per day have a higher risk at 1.9
Another study, for which I only had access to the abstract,I discusses an increased risk for ovulatory infertility when there is a BMI (body mass index - figure out yours here) below 20 or above 24. The study also finds that an increase in vigorous activity (NOT moderate activity) reduces relative risk of ovulatory infertility. In fact, the more hours of activity, the less the risk. Their results suggest that ovulatory infertility is caused more by being overweight and underactive than to being underweight and overexertion.
Exercise + Premature Ovarian Failure
Here's where my research hits a dead end. From what I can find, there has been approximately zero research done on whether or not exercise, vigorous or moderate, regardless of minutes/hours spent, affects your ability to conceive if you have POF. Bummer.
|My cat loves stinky running shoes|
I'm in relatively good shape. My resting heart rate is usually around 60-65. I can run 5 miles without feeling super winded (although it's all about pacing!). I'm at a healthy weight. My BMI is somewhere around a 22-24 (I should get this checked out at my gym next time I'm there... the little online calculator only works if you don't have a lot of muscle. And while I'm not ripped, I think I probably have more muscle than a typical gal, due to the running).
The Question: To Run or Not to Run
I've been training for a half marathon for the past 6 weeks and I'm making great progress. However. I am getting a serious itch to do a full marathon. My friend from college has enthusiastically agreed to train with me for a full marathon in 12 weeks. We checked out some training plans and are now tentatively working on one. Tentatively because while I am a huge endorser of running and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I don't want to do anything that might, even in the slightest, hurt my chances of conceiving. Granted, my chances of conceiving in the next 12 weeks are about .0001% (made up stat), but why put any obstacles in my way, right?
Except. What if I wasn't going to conceive in the next 12 weeks anyway? "Run a full marathon" is in the top three on my "MUST DO" bucket list. Should I just wait forever? Clearly, I would rather get pregnant than run a full marathon, but does this also mean I just have to wait until the end of time? It's not like if I do get pregnant, I'll be able to run a full marathon any time in the next... oh, I don't know... 10 years... From what I hear, having a kid is pretty time consuming.
I know this is a stupid dilemma. Because the difference between "not running a marathon" and "not having a baby" are so ridiculously incomparable that it should be an absolute no-brainer. But it's not. Because I don't think it's an either/or problem. It's probably a marathon and no baby... or no baby and no marathon. And it's just one more thing to withhold from myself (because gluten, refined sugar, and most dairy just isn't enough, right?).
I know. I'm being very pessimistic. But my decision now is to just talk to my doctor about it. I'm going back in a couple of days so hopefully I will figure this out soon. I would like to note, however, that after a few simple calculations according to my training plan for a marathon, my very highest week of mileage would have me exercising an average of 69 minutes per day. For one week. The rest would stay under 60 minutes / day.
What do you think? Where do you draw the line with exercise? Any advice on whether or not I should go for the marathon?