The girls at Food Fitness Fertility share with you the importance of exercise and its role in balancing hormones
Hormones, such as estrogen, cortisol, progesterone and insulin, are extremely important chemical messengers that affect many areas of your overall health. The entire endocrine (hormonal) system works together to control the level of hormones circulating throughout your body, and if one or more is even slightly imbalanced it can cause widespread, major health and fertility problems.
Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances are:
Infertility and irregular periods
Unexplained weight gain or loss
Excess weight around the middle
Anxiety and Depression
Low sex drive
Facial hair or thinning hair
If you have suffered from a hormonal imbalance in the past you may have been prescribed hormonal treatments such as- the oral contraceptive pill, thyroid medication, insulin injections and more- but these simply mask your symptoms and do not solve the actual underlying problem. This means that you could continue to develop problems in other areas of the body while your disorder continues.
Over the next few weeks we will look at some of the more prominent hormonal imbalances and how exercise can help get your hormones in check and improve your chances of having a baby.
(Find out more about hormones here). We believe that educating you on why your body responds in certain ways will help you implement lifestyle changes that positively affect your fertility. We will empower you to be consistent with these changes and that’s what ultimately yields results.
Cortisol and Stress
Cortisol is a hormone that is raised in your body during times of stress. This can be emotional stress (miscarriage), mental stress (work), physical stress (exercise/illness) or environmental stress (toxins) and all cause your body to increase the production of cortisol.
When cortisol levels increase, it stimulates your “fight or flight” response (the sympathetic nervous system). This activation tells your body you are in some form of immediate danger (think caveman running from a lion type danger) and it immediately increases your blood pressure, elevates your heart rate, and releases glucose into the bloodstream from your liver.
If this happens for an extended period (chronic stress) it will start to affect other hormones and disrupt your metabolism and general health.
In this way stress has a huge impact on your fertility causing decreased production of sex hormones and thyroid hormone, weight gain, weight loss, poor sleep, muscle breakdown, adrenal fatigue, nutrient deficiency and more. However recent research is showing that the way in which we handle our stress is leading to more fertility problems rather than the actual stressor itself.
If you binge eat, over-exercise (too much high-intensity exercise will add to your stress-load), get inadequate sleep, sit for most of the day, drink too much alcohol, drink too much caffeine, smoke or eat highly processed, high trans-fat, high sugar foods in order to deal with your stress it is likely that these habits are increasing symptoms connected to infertility.
Managing your stress by taking part in a moderate exercise program, doing yoga, meditation (headspace), going for walks with friends, sleeping more, getting outside, belly breathing, eating and preparing good wholesome foods not only gives your body the rest, oxygen, energy and nutrients it needs to deal with difficult times but you’re also vastly improving your own ability to have the mental focus and willpower to deal with whatever life throws your way.
Trying to conceive can be a draining and stressful time so support your body and mind with good lifestyle and dietary habits as much as you can. Your future self will thank you.
NEAT is non-exercise activity thermogenesis – the energy you use that isn’t exercise, sleeping or eating. Increasing your metabolism). We’ve added number 3 this week, but continue to apply tips 1 and 2 = Creating habits that stick make it easier to see results and create consistency.
- Get a Fit-Bit/ pedometer/ step counter or any similar device. Having a goal to reach of at least 10,000 steps a day and optimally 15,000 steps a day is a great motivator and way of tracking your daily activity levels.
- Go for a 15-minute walk at some point during your working day every day. Leave a jacket and a pair of runners under the desk so you have no excuses.
- Stand at your desk periodically throughout the day. Standing increases blood flow and engages the major muscle groups in your lower body. Alternatively you could sit on a stability ball instead of an office chair, you will be actively engaging your core muscles and you could fit in some extra exercise. Also stand and pace around when on calls, this will increase your daily step count.
- Decide to do one big job in your home every week for example – clearing out your wardrobe or cleaning up the garden after the winter. Both of these will work your body and also help create some mental clarity. De-cluttering is a great wellness tool to help you shed baggage physically and emotionally.
- Dance turn up the music in the morning in your kitchen and have a boogee. Any excuse to get the body moving and swaying. Enjoy a jive around the house with your partner, it will make ye connect on an emotional and physical level outside of the norm.
You can always read some more about NEAT on our website
We want to help your body move better, feel stronger, toned and build muscle.
This is GREAT FOR BEGINNERS. No equipment required just a raised surface and a stopwatch or timer app.
This is a 12 minute total body workout with just two body weight exercises however these are engaging muscles from your lower and upper body – otherwise known as a compound or multi joint movement
Exercise 1: Inchworm – this is a fantastic dynamic exercise that works on increasing strength and mobility in your entire body from your shoulders to your core and the backs of your legs.
Start standing tall with legs straight, hinge at the hips looking forward lower your hands on to the ground and creep forward until you are in a full pushup position, pause for .5 sec and return to standing by creeping your hands back while trying to maintain straight legs (this bit is tricky, allow a little bend to help but gradually improve this)!! A super exercise
Exercise 2: Modified Side Plank with leg Lift – Side plank works the oblique muscles located at the sides of our body. This exercise also targets the upper body when performed on your hand with your arm extended as well as some bum action with the leg lifts! Again you get more bang for your buck with multi joint movements and they also challenge our core stability and balance.
Lie on one side and ensure your hand, hip, bent knee and top leg are all in one line, make sure your body is not in a C shape. Lift your inside hip away from the ground, opening up through your arm pit, ensure hips are stacked and that the top hip isn’t swaying backwards or forwards. Once balanced lift your top leg.
If the leg lift is too difficult simply stay in the side plank hold for the time allotted. To Progress this exercise straighten bottom leg so both legs are straight and balance from your feet when in position.
Format: 50 secs work / 10 secs rest x 12 intervals = 12 Minutes
This week we have 3 exercises as you will be completing the side plank on left and right so LETS TRY 4 ROUNDS
Click on the exercise to review the video demos before commencing workout. Check out your previous articles for more workout inspiration.
Wellness Tip – Improve your Sleep
The importance of sleep can sometimes be completely overlooked. The topic is so important to every aspect of your healthier path to getting pregnant. During sleep your body recovers after exercise, creates and builds muscle through protein synthesis and produces the growth hormone that is our natural anti-aging source.
The harder you exercise and the greater your activity levels the more sleep you need. Regular physical activity is important for high-quality sleep, and high-quality sleep is important for physical activity. When you are well rested you and your body perform at its best. Lack of sleep not only encourages less exercise but those that regularly sleep poorly move less in general throughout the day, which increases weight gain and hormonal imbalances further.
Fertility and sleep do overlap. The endocrine system supports all other systems and supports sleep. High quality sleep helps balance your hormones, helps regulate insulin and stops you getting fat.
f you are trying to conceive you need to ensure you are getting adequate levels of sleep. 7-9 hours has been proven to be effective but some may require up to 10 hours depending on your activity levels.
And of course the more time spent in the bedroom can only be a positive thing!!
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You can find out more on our website