Men, Exercise & Trying To Conceive

What about men’s exercise and fertility?

This is an important question to ask, and we know that high heat can negatively impact sperm parameters (think hot tubs), but how can we counsel men about biking, jogging, and hot yoga? Studies on exercise and men’s fertility differ in many ways – who they study, how they determine fertility (sperm parameters vs. time to conception), and how they study (questionnaire vs. interview). Most of the studies available warn against strenuous, intense endurance exercise like running and biking for long periods of time but find improved sperm counts and fertility with regular exercise. One study found decreased sperm counts with more than five hours of biking per week in men undergoing fertility testing (12). A study of sperm parameters in sedentary men monitored during exercise programs showed improved counts and motility in sperm with regular cardiovascular exercise and a return to poor parameters when exercise stopped (13). So exercise is good for men’s fertility too!

One warning about fitness and men’s fertility: testosterone and steroid supplements often used to enhance fitness performance will decrease sperm counts and often lead to infertility. It may seem counterintuitive, and patients often question me when I tell them this because it seems like testosterone would improve sperm like it improves muscle mass and athletic performance, BUT it’s true! If the body sees exogenous testosterone and steroids (in the form of shots, creams, pills), it stops making its own testosterone – and if testicles aren’t making testosterone, they stop making sperm too. There are clinical trials underway looking into the use of testosterone as a male contraception! So – do not take testosterone, and be very careful about herbs and supplements aimed to ‘boost men’s muscle mass and athletic performance,’ because they may contain steroids or testosterone-like compounds.

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