Physical activity and its effects on reproduction

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      The reproductive system is tightly coupled with energy balance, and thereby changes in the status of energy balance through changes in physical activity can impact on the reproductive system. In light of the new physical activity for health recommendations, it is therefore important to understand the inherent effects, both positive and negative, of physical activity on the reproductive system. At both extremes of the energy spectrum, disorders of chronic energy excess and energy deficiency are characterized by a wide range of reproductive disorders, including menstrual irregularity, anovulation, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and infertility in women, and erectile dysfunction and altered spermatogenesis in men. Although laboratory research indicates that individuals may be able to prevent or reverse reproductive disruptions, either by increasing energy expenditure in cases of energy excess or by dietary reform in cases of energy deficits, there is an acute need for applied research to confirm this idea and to identify mechanisms by which the availability of energy per se regulates reproductive function in humans.


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      Dr Leanne Redman is a senior post-doctoral fellow in the Health and Performance Enhancement division at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre. She is the recipient of a Neil Hamilton-Fairley clinical training fellowship from the NH & MRC in Australia and holds a joint appointment with Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Her research is focused on studies of energy balance and physical activity on reproductive health in women.