Infertility is a devastating and all too common occurrence for many couples today. For men, the problem, which means a failure to conceive, is often due to a low sperm count, i.e. fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. But a new study may provide these wannabe parents with some potentially good news. It appears that physical activity can elevate a man’s sperm count, which might make a big difference for couples who have been struggling to become pregnant.
The research, which was conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, determined that men who exercise consistently are more likely to have a sperm count that is higher than average as compared to men who are not regular exercisers.1 “Exercise Might Boost Men’s Sperm Counts, Study Finds.” U.S. News & World Report. 14 October 2013. Accessed 21 October 2013. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/10/14/exercise-might-boost-mens-sperm-counts-study-finds?page=2. The subjects were 137 adult men who had been seen for infertility issues at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center between 2006 and 2012. Each participant provided samples of their semen and answered health-related surveys that included questions about their regular exercise habits.
The scientists discovered that those men who took part in physical activity for at least seven hours each week had a 48 percent higher concentration of sperm in their semen versus their peers who typically exercised for less than one hour each week. In other words, those volunteers who regularly performed about one hour a day of exercise in the moderate to vigorous range produced a good deal more sperm on average.
The type of activity the men engaged in made a difference as well. The men who participated in various outdoor forms of exercise and those who did weight training were found to have the greatest sperm concentrations of all of the subjects. When they were regularly involved in outdoor physical activities for a minimum of an hour and a half per week, the men had a 42 percent higher concentration of sperm compared to those who performed no outdoor exercise. And those who worked out with weights for two hours a week or more on average were found to have a 25 percent greater sperm count than their counterparts who skipped weight training.
It is not entirely clear why these two categories of fitness and exercise were the most beneficial to sperm counts, but working out with weights can boost testosterone production, which may aid in improving sperm levels. Being outdoors, on the other hand, may be helpful because it increases our exposure to sunlight, naturally raising vitamin D levels in the body, which also can positively influence sperm production. A 2010 study at the Medical University Graz in Austria found that men have seasonal variations in vitamin D levels likely based on sun exposure that cause changes in their testosterone levels similar to findings in earlier studies that showed vitamin D plays an important role in male reproduction in rodents.2 Wehr, E.; et al. “Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men.” Clinical Endocrinology. August 2010. Accessed 22 October 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20050857
The only negative association found to exercise and sperm concentration in the current research was in those men whose preferred activity was riding a bicycle. Those who spent upwards of an hour and a half weekly on a bike were found to have a 34 percent lower sperm count when compared to the participants who did not engage in any bike riding. This comes as little surprise, however, since cycling was linked with lower sperm concentration in a 2010 study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, likely due to scrotal trauma and elevated scrotal temperatures from this activity.3 Wise, Lauren, A.; et al. “Physical activity and semen quality among men attending an infertility clinic.” Fertility and Sterility. 1 December 2010. Accessed 22 October 2013. http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(10)02776-7/abstract
Even though the current study only provides evidence of an association between most forms of exercise and higher sperm counts and not a cause-and-effect, it is clearly yet another reason everyone should make time for daily physical activity. While there may be other factors at play in sperm production, those men who live a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly are most likely doing other things right that also tend to better their overall well-being in addition to their fertility. This research also reminds us that it’s best to vary our workouts to improve our fitness and reap the benefits of different methods of exercise. So do your cardio outdoors a few days a week and alternate with weight training as well as balance and flexibility workouts, for not only the best chances of increasing sperm concentration and fertility but also for your whole-body health. And while you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to use an all natural formula that containes herbs like tribulus terrestris and wild oats, both of which can also help increase sperm count. Also, read more on men’s health issues.
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|1.||↑||“Exercise Might Boost Men’s Sperm Counts, Study Finds.” U.S. News & World Report. 14 October 2013. Accessed 21 October 2013. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/10/14/exercise-might-boost-mens-sperm-counts-study-finds?page=2.|
|2.||↑||Wehr, E.; et al. “Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men.” Clinical Endocrinology. August 2010. Accessed 22 October 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20050857|
|3.||↑||Wise, Lauren, A.; et al. “Physical activity and semen quality among men attending an infertility clinic.” Fertility and Sterility. 1 December 2010. Accessed 22 October 2013. http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(10)02776-7/abstract|