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Rebecca A. Maher Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Medicine, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Katie Wadden Memorial University of Newfoundland, School of Human Kinetics & Recreation, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Daniel Fuller University of Saskatchewan, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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Fabien Basset Memorial University of Newfoundland, School of Human Kinetics & Recreation, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Hannah Murphy Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Medicine, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Erin McGowan Memorial University of Newfoundland, School of Human Kinetics & Recreation, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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In brief

Females with obesity may experience infertility and can improve their fertility through exercise. This review found that most exercise interventions improve fertility outcomes regardless of technique, intensity, or duration. More detailed reporting through the lens of exercise prescription should be included in future studies.

Abstract

Female infertility disproportionately affects people with obesity. Exercise often improves fertility outcomes for this population, however, there is limited prescriptive evidence. Specifically, there is a lack of information on the ideal type, frequency, intensity, and setting of exercise to improve fertility outcomes. Using principles of exercise prescription, this review aimed to describe the scope of exercise interventions that have been explored and fertility outcomes measured for people with female infertility and obesity. A search was completed in PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, and CINAHL, identifying 16 relevant published articles. Overall, exercise had a positive impact on female fertility outcomes in people with obesity, though there were large variations in the exercise interventions prescribed and outcomes measured. Cyclic exercise (i.e. walking and cycling) was the most common technique incorporated, though a combination of cyclic, acyclic (i.e. circuit training and boot camp), or individualization was often used. Several fertility outcomes were reported; however, the rate of conception, pregnancy, and live birth rates were the most common, which, we suggest, should always be reported in fertility intervention research. We stress that future studies provide more thorough descriptions of their implemented exercise interventions to facilitate reproducibility and comparisons between studies. Closer attention to the principles of exercise prescription when developing and reporting exercise interventions will help improve fertility outcomes, mainly live birth rates, for those with female infertility and obesity.

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