Many running couples who are trying to have children can’t help but wonder whether running can reduce a couple’s ability to conceive. It’s a logical question. After all, running can be quite stressful and stress can impact both the man and woman and reduce the chances of conception.
Often, reproductive specialists recommend to infertile couples that one or both partners reduce or stop running while trying to conceive. Sometimes, it helps; sometimes not. It is not unusual for one of the running partners to become injured (usually, the man) and the next thing you know, they have success in reproducing.
So is there a connection between running and infertility? Does a couple which is trying to conceive have to give up (or reduce) running for a lengthy period?
The answer, according to fertility experts, is there is a connection between running and infertility. But, according to experts, running – and running alone – does not cause infertility for either the man or woman. That is assuming the runner (or both runners) is eating a proper diet and is not running high mileage and/or overtraining.
Unfortunately, many runners don’t eat what is considered a proper diet. For example, many runners eat an inordinate amount of carbohydrates at the expense of adequate protein. For a runner training for a marathon, that usually isn’t a problem. But for a man who is trying to conceive, a diet high in carbs and low in protein may have a negative affect on the sperm count.
Eating plenty of carbs (and reducing protein) may make sense from a running standpoint, but physiologically it sends a signal to the mind that the body is undernourished. It might not be, but that’s how it’s interpreted.
And that interpretation by the brain of undernourishment inhibits sexual desire. As a man’s desire decreases, the percentage of abnormal sperm increases (abnormal sperm can’t fertilize eggs) at the expense of normal sperm. Abnormal sperm increase reduces normal sperm levels which is not a good thing if you want to conceive.
Many marathoners are also prone to high mileage/overtraining which often leads to fatigue. Simply training for a marathon is tiring enough, but being overly fatigued can also reduce sexual desire and reduce testosterone levels. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for regulating your sperm production. Again, the greater the fatigue, the less sperm production.
For couples trying to conceive, the best advice might be to reduce the levels of training for a few weeks. Eat a well-rounded diet and avoid hard races, high-mileage weeks and especially long runs.
Then, just relax and allow nature to take its course.