Following on the previous post in this series of blogs, men also choose to deal with stress by regularly exercising. Regular exercise releases helpful chemicals to act as mood boosters, as well as the feel-good factor when progress is made. Exercise can help with self-confidence and attraction of potential partners, but what effect does exercise have on male fertility?
The health benefits of exercise are well understood, with exercise being a crucial element within society dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Regular exercise has been linked with reduced risks of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart conditions and even mental health conditions. However, the link with male fertility is not fully understood, male athletes have been shown to have reduced testosterone levels. On the other hand, men who exercise more than 7 hours a week were found to have much higher concentrations of sperm per ejaculate.
So why is there this dispute surrounding the effects of exercise on male fertility? It all stems down to the nature of the exercise. For example, regular weightlifting has been shown to increase testosterone as well as improving insulin sensitivity, both of these are factors related to healthier sperm concentration. Exercises performed outside are linked with an increase in fertility due to the exposure to vitamin D, which acts as a positive influence on sperm production. On the contrary, regular cycling has been linked with a decrease in sperm count due to the pressure on the scrotum exerted by the bicycle seat and the subsequent increase in scrotal temperature.
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On the other end of the spectrum, a sedentary lifestyle can have a detrimental effect on male fertility. Men who watched more than 20 hours of TV a week had a significantly lower sperm count than men who watched no TV. This could be due to the temperature at which the testes are kept at and the increased risk of gaining fatty tissue as well as the implication of missing out on the vital vitamin D.
Although regular exercise has proven health benefits, one routine that comes with many gym memberships should be skipped if you are trying to conceive in the near future. The sauna room and hot tub may help with relaxation and muscular recovery, but the effects the heat has on sperm production are detrimental and long lasting, but not irreversible.
Exercise enhances male fertility in many ways, as explored in this blog entry, however, it is possible to over-do it. Long term, strenuous exercise has been linked to a decrease in male fertility by decreasing the rate of spermatogenesis, thus resulting in a lower sperm concentration. Excessive exercise can also cause heat to build up around the testicles as well as the release of adrenal hormones which lower testosterone levels.
In conclusion, as with most important lifestyle factors surrounding general health, moderation is key. It is important for sperm health to maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index) as well as a healthy scrotal temperature. The evidence is stacked in favor of maintaining a relatively active lifestyle in order to ensure healthy sperm production as well as improving the quality of life once the offspring arrive.