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Male Infertility: A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way

January 7, 2017

Are you the type of man that likes to spend a little more time on the couch than you want to admit? Well, if you are trying to have a baby, I have some helpful advice: Exercise could significantly improve the quality of your sperm!

A new study published in Reproduction illustrates that moderate cardiovascular exercise, jogging for example, can improve sperm’s speed, shape and volume.

A six-month study found that those men whom were randomly assigned to exercise on a treadmill improved the quality of their sperm in terms of volume, sperm count, motility (movement) and morphology (shape and size). Two hundred and sixty-one sedentary men were enrolled in this study.  They were assigned to do either moderate intensity continuous training (running at moderate speed for 30-45 minutes, 3-6 days a week), high-intensity continuous exercise (running vigorously for one hour on the treadmill, 3 days a week), high intensity interval training (alternating sprints and walks for 20-30 minutes) or no exercise at all. 

All of the exercising groups significantly decreased their weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference.  However, men who had been assigned to do moderate intensity continuous training managed to improve their sperm quality the most.  This moderate intensity group improved their semen volume by more than eight percent, their sperm motility by twelve percent, and morphology improved seventeen percent.  These men also had twenty-two percent more sperm cells on average compared to the control group, which did not participate in any exercise. 

Unfortunately, when these men stopped exercising, their sperm parameters decreased profoundly within one week of exercise cessation.

Male infertility causes 35 percent of all infertility cases, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.  There are several reasons for male factor infertility, sperm problems being the most common.   

In addition to not being able to conceive, emerging research suggests that poor sperm quality may also include an increased risk of miscarriage.  Exposure to smoking, illegal drug use, heavy drinking and environmental toxins can negatively affect sperm quality, as can medical conditions like diabetes, cystic fibrosis, infection or treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.

There are several ways to treat male factor infertility, but they are often expensive and invasive. That’s why lifestyle changes, like exercise, are often the first step men should take to improve sperm quality. 

Men should keep their laptops off their laps and avoid saunas, hot tubs and hot yoga to prevent heating up their testicles.  Men should also emphasize vegetables and fruits in their diet, and surprisingly, a little bit of coffee (less than 2 cups per day) may also help improve motility. 

Of course, not every sperm problem can be solved with exercise, but it’s a good, healthy start.

We recommend any patient that has been unable to conceive, consider seeking help from a fertility specialist.

Sources: 

Malecki et al.  The effects of three different exercise modalities on markers of male reproduction in healthy subjects: a randomized controlled trial.  Reproduction 2017; 153: 157–174.

Vaamond et al. Response of semen parameters to three training modalities. Fertil Steril 2009; 92: 1941-6.

Dr. Dana Ambler
“ I center my practice around a mind, body, soul approach. Emotional, fertility, and medical aspects are all fulfilled here.”

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