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by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, Nov. 13, 2009

Are you one of those women who has to make the 6 a.m. kickboxing class? Do you want to run the Marathon every year?

If you answered yes to those questions and you're trying to get pregnant, be careful.

Even though exercise is a great relief to stress, a new study published in Human Reproduction shows that highly intense workouts make fertility problems three times more likely.

Doctors at Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Emory University in Atlanta surveyed 3,000 women about their fitness habits between 1984 and 1986. Ten years later, they asked the women about their pregnancies and found that those women who trained every day and those who exercised to the point of exhaustion ran into an increased risk of infertility.

The study, however, is careful not to suggest that hardcore exercise alone is the cause. The doctors acknowledged that other factors such as age and smokingcould also play a big role. The study also assumed that the women's physical activity stayed the same for ten years and it did not take into account the fertility of their male partners.

So what’s the optimal exercise routine when you’re trying to get pregnant or going through IVF? Dr. Mary Hinckley, an RE with Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, says that exercise is vital to keep your sanity when trying to get pregnant, but she does recommend some adjustments. “It’s ok to continue at regular sports, but I suggest women decrease their normal effort and time by 60 to 70 percent,” she says. "No marathon running or muscle bulking activities.”

When a patient is going through IVF, she adds, it's really important not to jostle the ovaries too much because during IVF they are enlarged and therefore more susceptible to ovarian torsion. “That means avoiding exercise that involves too much bouncing like kickboxing, trampoline or upside down yoga," she says. “The best exercise is gentle yoga, Pilates and walking.”

Learn more about exercise and your fertility here.

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt ( is a journalist and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood (Basic Books, 2009).