Whether you are trying to conceive right now or just want to keep your “little swimmers” healthy for the future, keeping a handle on your fertility through simple lifestyle changes can make a whole lot of difference.
As reported by Medical News Today, an estimated one in three couples encounters conception difficulties because of poor semen quality. Many of these couples place their hopes on in vitro fertilization (IVF) to create their little wonder. However, there is only so much you can do with poor quality sperm, which is known to increase the risk of birth defects, miscarriage and childhood cancer.
A new study, published in the journal Reproduction, has found that moderate yet continuous and regular exercise may be the key to solving fertility problems in men.
While would-be dads are routinely advised to quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, eat healthily and exercise, the researchers from Urmia University in northwestern Iran said that the link between exercise and sperm quality has, to date, been contradictory and not definitively proven.
With that in mind, Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki, lead author of the study, and colleagues recruited more than 261 inactive men to try to determine the link between sperm quality and different exercise levels. The men, aged 25 to 40, were divided into four different groups according to activity levels, ranging from no physical activity to moderate and high-intensity training. Each training program was followed for 24 weeks.
Sperm samples were evaluated before, during and after the exercise period, and were compared with the results from the control group, who did not exercise. While all exercising men showed improvements in their semen quality – probably because of weight loss – moderate but continuous training, which included running on a treadmill for 25 to 30 minutes three to four days per week, showed the best results regarding semen quality.
These men had 8.3 percent more semen volume, 12.4 percent higher sperm motility, 17.1 percent improved sperm cell shape, 14.1 percent more concentrated sperm and 21.8 percent more sperm cells.
While these results are quite impressive, the researchers also reported that the changes were not long-term. After only a single week, sperm count, shape and concentration went back to the pre-training levels; sperm motility dropped back after 30 days.
Previous research had already shown how environmental factors, poor diet and exposure to chemicals are responsible for declining sperm quality. Now, a sedentary lifestyle can also be added to the list.
The authors, however, noted that a loss of weight during the exercise routines might well have been a key factor in the improvement of sperm quality. It is no longer a secret that obesity can lower a man’s fertility. This could have played a major role in the study, since one-third of the men in each study group were overweight.
For this reason, further research is needed to determine whether exercise was the driving force behind these measurable changes in sperm quality. And more importantly, the researchers also want to investigate whether these changes actually translate into an increased ability to fertilize.
“Our results show that doing exercise can be a simple, cheap, and effective strategy for improving sperm quality in sedentary men. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the reason some men can’t have children isn’t just based on their sperm count. Male infertility problems can be complex and changing lifestyles might not solve these cases easily,” said Maleki.