Leptin is a hormone released from body fat that helps regulate our food intake and energy balance. We know that energy balance is linked to reproductive function, and it appears that leptin may play a key role in linking these.
Higher levels of leptin are found in infertile men and women when compared to fertile couples and there is a clear association between increasing leptin concentration and higher body fat. There are also complications that come with very low levels of body fat and being in a negative energy balance and in this instance, leptin may help restore fertility. Read more about energy balance here.
High levels of leptin in overweight males and females have been shown to impair fertility and attenuate embryo development. Leptin concentration has also been found to predict unexplained infertility in a North Indian population and can be a sensitive marker for anovulatory fertility disorders.
So if levels of leptin are associated with impaired fertility, how can they be modified?
It is true that Exercise is Medicine and incredibly within two weeks of initiating regular exercise in those with normal to high levels of body fat, leptin levels start to reduce, regardless of gender or age. Part of this is attributable to reducing body fat levels and one of the best ways to influence body composition (how much fat mass and muscle mass you have) is to engage in regular resistance training. Indeed, leptin levels are reduced to a greater extent with a combination of strength and aerobic training when compared to just aerobic training.
The reduction in leptin that accompanies regular exercise is believed to be one of the mechanisms by which exercise improves the regulation of blood sugar levels. With a lowering of leptin comes enhanced insulin sensitivity which has many benefits for improving fertility and is one of the key reasons why engaging in regular exercise and adopting a healthy diet can be such effective strategy to improve the chance of conception.
Body composition (the balance between muscle mass and body fat) influences the chance of spontaneous conception and the outcome of assisted reproductive treatments so maintaining optimal body composition is a great way to improve your reproductive health. Did you know that exercise guidelines recommend strength training 2-3 times per week for optimal health?
Strength training is the best way to maintain or build muscle mass, boost your metabolism and reduce body fat. And you can do this all without having to set foot into a gym! All you need is a small space and a towel and you can follow your program on The IVF Project app and realise all the fabulous benefits of strength training which include: