For many people, exercise is an ongoing commitment–and it always feels like we’re coming up short. Regular exercise is one of the best things we can do for a healthy body and mind, of course, and it’s particularly important for men hoping to become fathers. After all, there’s an entire body of research that confirms regular exercise improves sperm quality. Here’s the thing–overly intense exercise may be as problematic as too little when it comes to male fertility. Like anything, a balanced approach is generally best.
- Regular exercise can help improve sperm quality, which is linked to male fertility and defined specifically by sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.
- Proper function of the male reproductive system depends on a man’s health as a whole. That’s why regular exercise can have a positive impact on sperm health.
- Research shows that too much intense exercise and sports can negatively impact a man’s libido and sperm quality. Specifically, cycling, running, and high-altitude mountaineering are detrimental to specific sperm parameters.
Yes, Exercise is Important for Sperm Health
Generally speaking, a man’s health as a whole is a pretty darn good indicator of his reproductive health. A guy who gets regular exercise tends to have higher-functioning testicles and higher sperm quality parameters. Specifically, exercises like weight lifting and running are associated with higher sperm concentrations. While definitive guidelines regarding how much exercise you need to target sperm in particular don’t yet exist, researchers do know that consistency is important. Experts recommend regular exercise three to five times for a strong, healthy body, which is about five hours.
Now, as a society, we tend to have a “more is better” mindset. After all, this is the country of supersized fries and Big Gulps and gigantic SUVs! So if you’re reading this and thinking professional athletes must have seriously impressive sperm, well, think again.
Too Much Exercise Does Sperm Quality No Good
Seriously intense exercise–the kind professional athletes or ultra marathoners or mountain climbers are into–has major drawbacks for male fertility. First, this kind of hardcore fitness is a major libido killer. Authors of a 2017 study were pretty blunt, writing, “Exposure to higher levels of chronic intense and greater durations of endurance training on a regular basis is significantly associated with a decreased libido scores in men.” But it gets worse. Another 2017 review drilled down to clarify the effect of intense exercise on sperm quality. It included research comparing the sperm quality of recreational athletes and professional athletes. While exercise for the weekend warrior group was either natural or positive, the pros or anyone who falls into the “serious athlete” category should be “aware of potential risks” associated with their super intense level of training. Sperm parameters most likely to be negatively affected include:
- Sperm concentration
- The percentage of motile sperm
- The percentage of sperm with normal morphology
In plain language, that means men who regularly participate in high-intensity exercise are more likely to have sperm that don’t move well and aren’t shaped properly, not to mention less sperm in general. That’s a problem. Sperm quality is directly tied to male fertility, for one thing. And not only does it make conception itself harder, inferior sperm poses a direct risk to the health of both the pregnancy and the baby, including birth weight and brain development.
Interestingly, the review called out specific type of intense exercise as potentially problematic, including:
- Cycling, which researchers called “one of the most troublesome activities for fertility due to the mechanical impact sustained from sitting on the saddle, gonadal overheating, wearing tight clothes, and hormonal dysfunction.”
- Running, which can be both good and bad, because of “disturbances in the hormonal milieu, the stress response, oxidative stress, and scrotal heating.”
- Mountaineering, which is an issue because of the potential effects of high altitude.
The Bottom Line
So, what’s a super athlete to do? Well, if you want to be a dad, you may want to take it down a few notches. Think big picture–regular exercise is important, but so is a mindful diet, sufficient nightly sleep, healthy stress management, and all the other habits that make up a healthy lifestyle.
Remember that a huge part of sperm quality comes down to the right nutrients at the right time, so swapping the daily multivitamin for a specialized men’s prenatal vitamin is also a smart move. A high-quality pick like Beli for Men has scientifically-proven nutrients in all the right amounts to help improve and support sperm health and increase testosterone, among other benefits. It really is one of the easiest ways to support your fertility health–no HIIT required.