You are here
Exercise and Diet for Improving Male Fertility
June 30, 2016
In the world of fertility treatment, there seem to be clear-cut tips and treatments for remedying female fertility, but not as many guidelines for improving male fertility. This can leave male partners feeling uninvolved in the family building process. The truth is that there is a big way men can take an active role in the treatment process-they can exercise to boost their sperm quality and quantity.
Researchers at the University of Cordoba encourage moderate physical activity to regulate the process of sperm production. Their recent findings, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, show improved hormone levels and sperm production in physically active men compared to men who are less active. Semen analyses showed better morphology, count, and motility percentages among other healthier numbers.
A semen analysis looks at several factors for determining normal fertility. The guidelines established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010, analyze semen based on the following criteria:
- Concentration-15 million per ml or 39 million in the entire sample
- Volume- 1.5ml on average
- Motility- at least 32% of progressively motile sperm
- Viability- Greater than 58% living sperm per sample.
- Morphology-At least 4% normal shaped sperm.
- Liquefaction-Semen stays in liquid form for 60 minutes after ejaculation.
- Viscosity-Too thick of a sample could indicate a problem with the prostate.
- Color-Opalescent, slightly yellow color
- pH level- above 7.1 (Lower values might indicate azoospermia, or no level of measureable sperm in the semen)
- Leukocytes- Less than 1 million per ml of sample. Greater number could indicate infection.
- Antisperm antibodies- Less than 50%; anything greater suggests an immune disorder.
So, what are the best ways for men to promote health and fertility?
Get off the couch
Larry Lipshultz, M.D., of the Scott Department of Urology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, encourages men concerned about their fertility to get out and exercise. “Not only do they feel better,” he advises, “they lose fat and decrease the amount of testosterone converting to estrogen.” By regulating these hormones and decreasing fat storage, men not only improve their fertility, but cardiovascular health as well.
Paul Turek, M.D., of The Turek Clinic in San Francisco, California says exercise is one of few stress relievers that men have. “Stress hurts relationships, fertility, and your heart,” he says. Women often take a social approach to stress relief and are more inclined to talk about what is bothering them than men. However, exercise is an effective stress outlet for both sexes.
Weight resistance or cardiovascular exercises are most recommended for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and boosting fertility. Exercises like competitive cycling and triathlons should be practiced in moderation to avoid prostate irritation, lower testosterone production, and physical stress on the body. More obvious forms of protecting fertility are important too, like wearing an athletic cup during high contact sports, avoiding saunas, and upgrading to a better quality bicycle seat that keeps anatomy and fertility in mind.
Fertility stands to be improved just by addressing overall health concerns, both doctors agree. In particular, improving cardiovascular health will improve fertility also. “What’s great for your heart is great for fertility”, Turek says.
Healthy diet, minimal alcohol consumption, and smoking cessation are also recommended. Foods high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar shouldn’t make up the bulk of your daily intake, though obsessing and depriving yourself of indulgences will only cause your diet to crash hard. “Really, no food is bad or good for you, it should be consumed in moderation”, says Lipshultz.
What most men (and women) may not realize about a semen analysis report is that it is just a snapshot of the overall picture. There is so much more to be said about sperm quality and men’s health in general. An abnormal semen analysis is a clue that something needs to change, be it diet, bad habits, or a medical condition like a varicocele. Dr. Turek also reminds us that sleep is an underestimated antidote for health. Sleeping will increase your libido and help you lose weight. Your sperm count wants to be high, but without the proper fuel and maintenance, it can’t reach maximum potential, he tells us.
These lifestyle changes will not happen overnight and do require some commitment. However, they are small changes to be introduced slowly. Things like taking a walk after a meal and not eating between meals will help you navigate the road to overall fitness and improved fertility.