Men who exercise regularly appear to have higher quality semen compared with men who don’t exercise regularly, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers and colleagues.
The study examined data collected from 746 sperm donors at the Hubei Province Human Sperm Bank in China and found that men who had exercised more frequently and intensely had better sperm motility than men who got the least amounts of exercise.
For the current analysis, researchers analyzed thousands of sperm samples from hundreds of men who qualified to donate sperm based on their health history and semen quality. Donors needed healthy levels of three things that can make conception more likely: sperm concentration, or the amount of sperm released when men ejaculate; sperm morphology, meaning the ideal size and shape with an oval head and a long tail; and motility, or the ability of sperm to move through the female reproductive tract to reach an egg.
Men who got the most total exercise and logged the most time doing intense workouts had better sperm motility than men who got the least amounts of exercise, the study found.
“Regular exercise may improve semen quality parameters among healthy, non-infertile men,” said study co-author Dr. Yi-Xin Wang of Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
“But it’s hard to tell how much exercise, and how often and what type of workouts should men do for optimal fertility,” Wang said by email.
All of the 746 study participants volunteered as potential sperm donors at the Hubei Province Human Sperm Bank in China. They were 28 years old, on average, and had a healthy weight, at least a high school education, no sexually transmitted diseases and no history of radiation exposure.
Researchers asked participants how often they exercised, and how intensely, as well as what other activities they did. Then, the study team scored participants’ exercise levels and intensity based on a measure known as metabolic equivalent of task (MET) minutes per week.