Research to Reader: fertility science
Your lifestyle can influence the quantity and quality of little swimmers (aka sperm). Read on to see the benefits of exercise!
What if you are carrying a few extra kilos?
Males who are overweight or obese have a 50% greater chance of reductions in fertility (1) (2). Males with extra body fat often have:
What if your diet is less than ideal?
A recent animal study suggests that exercise can combat the negative effects of a bad diet for sperm (5)- not that you should forget the importance of eating well for your fertility treatment and beyond. The study reinforced the negative effects of a poor diet. Mice that were fed a high fat diet had a 77% decrease in sperm count, 45% decrease in sperm motility, as well as a 47% increase in abnormal sperm morphology. The good news then? Exercising for 30 minutes a day for 12 weeks significantly reduced sperm abnormalities by 68%! Exercise also:
What if you are super fit?
In men who exercise regularly or are recreational athletes, exercise is most likely to improve sperm health. In those who are highly trained athletes, regular, high intensity exercise with minimal recovery between sessions may actually reduce sperm quality (6). Men who trained for 4 to 5 days a week for a minimum of 2 hours each session (VO2max: 58 to 67 ml/kg/min) had poorer quality sperm than men who trained for 2 to 3 days per week for a minimum of 4 to 5 hours (VO2max: 47to 53) ml/kg/min) (6).
If your preferred mode of exercise is cycling there is also evidence to suggest that you may need to back off time spent on the bike, and swap this for another aerobic activity. Cycling for more than five hours a week is associated with a 92% chance of low sperm concentration (7).
If you are a gym junkie then keep training at moderate levels and avoid use of supplements which may be adulterated with steroid like substances. It goes without saying, avoid the use of anabolic steroids too. After two years of anabolic steroid use, 80% of bodybuilders (average age 27 years) had testicular atrophy, 24% reduction in sperm volume, 32% reduction in motility, and a 62% reduction in sperm fertility index (8) – not great for baby making.
Make sure you have the RIGHT exercise prescription!
1.Sunderam S, Chang J, Flowers L, Kulkarni A, Sentelle G, Jeng G, et al. Assisted reproductive technology surveillance--United States, 2006. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2009; 58: 1-25.
2.Wang YA, Dean JM, Badgery-Parker T, EA. S. Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand 2006. Assisted reproduction technology series no 12 AIHW cat no PER 43. 2008;
3.Hajizadeh Maleki B, Tartibian B. Moderate aerobic exercise training for improving reproductive function in infertile patients: A randomized controlled trial. Cytokine. 2017; 92: 55-67.
4.Hajizadeh Maleki B, Tartibian B, Chehrazi M. The effects of three different exercise modalities on markers of male reproduction in healthy subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Reproduction. 2017; 153: 157-74.
5.Alhashem F, Alkhateeb M, Sakr H, Alshahrani M, Alsunaidi M, Elrefaey H, et al. Exercise protects against obesity induced semen abnormalities via downregulating stem cell factor, upregulating Ghrelin and normalizing oxidative stress. EXCLI J. 2014; 13: 551-72.
6.Tartibian B, Maleki BH. Correlation between seminal oxidative stress biomarkers and antioxidants with sperm DNA damage in elite athletes and recreationally active men. Clin J Sport Med. 2012; 22: 132-9.
7.Wise LA, Cramer DW, Hornstein MD, Ashby RK, Missmer SA. Physical activity and semen quality among men attending an infertility clinic. Fertil Steril. 2011; 95: 1025-30.
8.Bonetti A, Tirelli F, Catapano A, Dazzi D, Dei Cas A, Solito F, et al. Side effects of anabolic androgenic steroids abuse. Int J Sports Med. 2008; 29: 679-87.