Attention men! Are you a fitness enthusiast, athlete or training for sports while working on your fertility? How exercise impacts male fertility is a hot topic for men today. We know regular exercise benefits cardiovascular health, reduces the risk of some types of cancer and can have an invigorating effect on testosterone and male libido. Yet, the latest research shows how you exercise is important when it comes to male fertility.
Exercise & Sperm Health
It’s estimated that around 1 in 3 couples have trouble conceiving due to poor sperm health. While sperm quality can be improved by following the Male Fertility Diet, exercise makes a difference, too. However, here’s where it gets confusing. Some research suggests that exercise decreases sperm health, while other studies show exercise improves sperm health.
So, what’s the real story? Here’s what we know so far: The type of exercise that you participate in seems to make the biggest difference for supporting and improving male fertility.
Studies in Review
- If you participate in a lot of intense exercises like endurance cycling or long distance running, it could reduce sperm health and quality. A 2009 study of 286 men published in Journal of Endocrinology reveals that after 24 weeks, men who engaged in high-intensity exercise experienced a significant decline in sperm health compared to those who engaged in moderate exercise.
- 2017 research published in the journal Reproduction shows that while all types of exercise studied benefitted sperm health compared to men who didn’t exercise, moderate but regular exercise produced the best results. In this study, moderate, but regular exercisers experienced 8.3% more semen volume, 12.4% higher sperm motility, 17.1% improved sperm morphology, 14.1% more concentrated sperm, and 21.8% more sperm cells!
Important note: One week after the exercise program ended, sperm count, shape and concentration dropped to pre-training/pre-exercise levels. Sperm motility return to pre-exercise program levels 1 month after the program ended.
My Takeaway on Exercise and Male Fertility?
It appears that a moderate, but regular/consistent exercise program is the best choice for male fertility (female fertility too). A moderate-intensity exercise program benefits overall fitness, body fat composition, and even improves sperm health!
While we have more to learn about how intense or endurance training affects male fertility, I feel men experiencing fertility challenges may benefit by modifying their exercise routine, even if just while preparing for conception and trying to conceive. Beyond the studies shared above, reasons why include:
- Intense training programs can lead to excessive weight loss, which can affect testosterone production.
- Intense programs can cause increased free radical production and inflammation, which can damage sperm.
- Exercise that creates long-term, high heat in the testes such as endurance cycling could lead to lower than normal reproductive functioning.
As you move forward in your male fertility program, don’t stop exercising! Choose exercises that are fertility friendly like moderate cardio, resistance training, hiking, light jogging, walking, swimming or yoga. The right type of exercise energizes male fertility health, enhances sperm quality, lowers stress and even boosts libido.
- Hajizadeh Maleki, B., Tartibian, B. and Chehrazi, M. (2017 Feb.). The effects of three different exercise modalities on markers of male reproduction in healthy subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Reproduction. 153(2):157-174. Retrieved from https://rep.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/rep/153/2/157.xml
- Newman, T. (2016, Dec.). Exercise and Infertility: What Regimen is Best For Sperm Quality? Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314547.php
- Morris, T. (2017, Aug.). Running & Low Sperm Count. Retrieved from: https://healthfully.com/226120-running-low-sperm-count.html
- Safarinejad, M. R., Azma, K. and Kolahi, A.A.. (2009, March). The Effects of intensive, long-term treadmill running on reproductive hormones, hypothalamus-pituitary-testis axis, and semen quality: A randomized controlled study. The Journal of Endocrinology. 200. 259-71. 10.1677/JOE-08-0477. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23641659_The_Effects_of_intensive_long-term_treadmill_running_on_reproductive_hormones_hypothalamus-pituitary-testis_axis_and_semen_quality_A_randomized_controlled_study
- Juntti, M. (2018). The Best Exercise for Healthy Sperm. Retrieved from: