Archive for November, 2008

Exercise and fertility

November 24, 2008

Ever year around the holidays, sitting down with generations of fathers, mothers, children and grandchildren remind us of who we are and where we are going.

Like heirlooms passed down for centuries, our relatives and off-spring are the literal continuation of ourselves. With this in mind, one of the primary objectives for many young couples is successful procreation.

But while advance in medicine have vastly improved the child mortality rates, birth rates in birthrates across Western Europe and American have plummeted in comparison to those of developing nations.

Although some of this can be attributed to birth control methods, it is no coincidence that obesity rates in these same countries have sky rocketed alongside declining reproduction.

Much research has shown that obesity has a negative impact on a woman’s ability to get pregnant. In fact, 12% of infertility cases are due to being overweight or obese. This is because fat increases the amount of estrogen produced by the body.

Since 30% of estrogen comes from fat cells, having higher levels of fat leads to an increased production of estrogen, which can affect ovulation, menstruation and fertility.

For men, a 2006 epidemiological study found that a 20-pound increase in a man’s weight increased the chance for infertility by about 10 percent.

But whether you are overweight or simply having trouble starting your family, the good news is the chances of reproduction can be significantly boosted with a well designed exercise program.

Read on to learn what and what not to do in the gym for success in the bed room.

Fertility in Men:

When it comes to fertility (and getting ripped) in men, the primary hormone involved in sperm production is testosterone. Studies found that after age 30, testosterone levels may decline an average of 2 % or up to 5% with inactivity.

Interestingly, samples of testosterone production in men were boosted signficiantly when taken after a single workout. In this way, a vigorous strength training bout could act as a catalyst for sucessful reproduction.

In contrast to strength training-when involves, short and intense intervals, longer form, endurance activities (running, biking, etc) and training for hours per day can significantly decrease testosterone levels due to an increase in cortisol-a stress hormone which manifests in response to stress.

Whether performing cardiovascular or resistance exercise, studies have shown that cortisol levels begin to rise rapidly after about 45 minutes of training. With this in mind, a window of 30-45 minutes of intense exercise per day is ideal for fertility.

Some specific variables to include in you workout include:

  • Large multi-joint exercises (squats, deadlifts, power cleans)
  • Heavy resistance (3-5 reps)
  • Moderate to high volume intervals of sets (20-40 sets)
  • Short rest periods (30-60 seconds)

Fertility in women:


In women, the hormone estrogen is primarily responsible for reproduction. While obesity causes infertility by signaling the body to overproduce this hormone, too little body fat can result in the same outcome due to underproduction.

With the “fear of getting fat” a common symptom amoungst aspiring moms, it is important to note that if women did not have enough calories, the brain switches off the ability to reproduce by gradually restricting the flow of a hormone called leptin.

If the body falls below a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 18 or 19, ovulation often stops altogether-although menstruation continues.With this in mind, increasing fertility is about finding a balance in body composition. Ideally, this is around 21-25 on the body mass index.

With maintaining a healthy weight crucial to this process, this begins by calculating healthy caloric intake for your height/weight. This can be done by multiplying your weight by 18.

Once this is done, short strength training sessions (under 45 minutes) and longer bouts of aerobic exercise are ideal for maintaining fertility. A sample workout for fertility in women may appear as follows:

Strength training:

Exercise Sets/reps Bodypart:
Squat 3 x 15 Legs

Pushups 3 x 10 Chest

Inverted row 3 x 10 Back
(Pullups performed
under a barbell)

Bench dips 3 x 10 Arms

  • Perform exercises as a circuit
  • Keep workout under 45 minutes
  • Keep reps for any exercise between 12-15

Cardio vascular exercise:

Exercise Duration Pace/Incline
Treadmill walking 45 minutes 4 mph/level 4

  • Keep Heart rate between 60-70% (aerobic)
  • Stay away from high impact activities (running, jumping, etc)
  • Alternate between elliptical, light jogging, high walk on treadmill, etc


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Empirical evidence suggests…intervals clear my head

November 17, 2008

At least in my case. After a weekend of carb loading/heavy lifting, Monday morning come with brain fog as thick as pea soup. But not even several bowls oatmeal can apparently match the awesome power of interval running on the treadmill.

While I take a small shot of caffeine in the morning, it is not until this sensation hits my lungs that I am truly awake for the long haul. From lethargic and tired, suddenly I am filled with ideas and energy. Currently, my interval schedule looks like this:

Monday:

  • Treadmill walk/run- 20 minutes
  • Interval length- 60 seconds/4 reps

Wed:

  • 300 yd shuttle run
  • Interval length- two minutes

Friday:

  • Treadmill intervals (run only)
  • Interval length- 90 seconds/4 reps

Moreover, because I am gaining weight at the moment, I feel short bursts of intervals are the perfect formula to stimulate growth while keeping fat at bay. The question is whether walking in between intervals—which I do on Monday’s only– has any affect on my thought process? Or could it be that endorphins released by this form of training clear the mind?

All feedback/comments welcome.

Stop insomnia now

November 10, 2008

Like most commodities, sleep hasn’t exactly been at a premium amidst an unstable market. But one welcome change come last Saturday night has been an extra hour to sleep in– or so it seems.

While daylight time (pushing the clock back an hour) traditionally runs from the last Sunday in October to the 1st Sunday in April, one indication of rising fuel costs was the decision to delay this change to the 1st Sunday in November.

With daylight time now running until the end of March (rather than the beginning of April), this effectively means a month less time to catch up on your sleep. While an hour here and there may not sound like much, the time change bears a significant change on the body’s internal clock.

Also known as the circadian rhythm, your body’s timer regulates every action from when you are most awake to hormone production. When it comes to sleep, it can take the body up to four weeks to develop a new sleep cycle in response to changes in activity.

With this in mind, the opportunity exists during this “spring back” period to prime the body to respond more efficiently to cues it is time to sleep.

While this column will deal primarily with the affects of exercise on sleep, the most common misconception I have come across on this topic is that hot tea and other supplements which warm the body act as sleep aids.

By contrast, studies have shown the best way to induce “deep sleep” is to induce lower body temperatures. This means drinking colder or chilled beverages and timing a hot shower around 1-2 hours before sleep.

Getting in the zone:

Beyond these recommendations, one of the bst strategies to lower body temperature is engage in aerobic exercise around 4-5 hours before sleep. Findings from a recent Stanford Medical School study found that with a moderate intensity exercise program, subjects were able to fall asleep about 15 minutes earlier and sleep about 45 minutes longer at night.

Because higher heart rates require more time and effort by the body to return to normal, the trick to this program is boosting heart rate just enough to get in to the “aerobic” zone without dramatically elevating the body’s need for recovery.

This can be done by including brief surges of intensity to spike the heart rate followed by longer periods of slower, long form exercise. In order to do so, included below is a “sound sleep” program which should be performed 4-5 hours before bed.

By performing this program three times per week during daylight time, the body will become more efficient in inducing sleep patterns in prep for the seasonal change. Added to your current exercise routine, an additional dose of aerobics also aids in muscular recovery while burning fat before bed.

Directions:

  • Perform one of the anaerobic activity for thirty seconds every 6-8 minutes to raise resting HR in to the aerobic zone (60-80 of Max HR)
  • Perform prone marching for 15 to 20 minutes or until heart rate falls under 60% of Maximum (Max HR can be calculated by subtracting age from 220.
  • Perform thi activity at least 3-4 hours before bed followed by a warm shower.

Day #1/3:

  • Anaerobic activity: Squat thrusts
  • Aerobic activity: Marching in place

Day #2/4:

  • Anaerobic activity: Medicine ball slams
  • Aerobic activity: Marching side to side