Infertility is a public health issue of increasing concern. One of the reasons behind difficulty in conceiving is poor sperm quality. On average, a third of couples have trouble becoming pregnant for this reason. It seems that one of the key ways of improving sperm quality is exercise. A team of researchers in Iran have now demonstrated the benefits of taking moderate, regular exercise.
A team from Urmia University in Iran conducted a study to determine whether the length and intensity of exercise had an impact on sperm quality. To do this, they divided 261 men who were in good health but with a sedentary lifestyle and aged between 25 and 40 into 4 distinct groups. For 24 weeks, each participant had to follow a particular regime using a treadmill:
- moderate, regular exercise for half an hour, 3 or 4 days a week;
- high intensity, regular exercise for an hour, 3 or 4 days a week;
- high intensity, interval training, divided into one-minute sprints interspersed by short recovery breaks, at a rate of 10 to 15 exercises;
- no exercise at all.
Sperm samples were taken before and after these exercise sessions in order to measure the volume and number of sperm, their morphology, motility and any inflammatory markers.
Moderation and regularity
Their results show that all the groups who exercised saw an improvement in the quality of their sperm – in comparison with the control group. But of the different types of exercise, those that produced the most improvement in this respect were the moderate forms. The benefits these gave were also the longest lasting after exercise had ceased.
“This data shows that exercising is a simple, low-cost and effective strategy for improving sperm quality in sedentary men”, points out Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki, lead author of the study. “However, it is important to remember that infertility is not always caused by sperm numbers alone. Sometimes, a change of lifestyle is not enough for a couple to conceive.” The Iranian research team therefore plans to continue its study with a view to determining whether exercise improves not only sperm quality but also the fertile potential of sperm.