Improving Male Fertility with Exercise

Improving Male Fertility With Exercise

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Exercise is a bodily activity the demands physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.  This includes swimming, running, jogging, walking, and dancing, just to name a few. As you know, physical activity has a long list of health benefits, both physical and mental. But, how does it affect semen quality?

Numerous investigators have attempted to quantify the effects of physical activity on semen parameters, such as lifestyle factors, such as diet or smoking. It is important to mention that many of the studies rely on self-reported physical activity. For physical activity and diet this is not trivial since many individuals have a poor memory of their past activity level.

Opposite to physical activity is physical inactivity, also called being sedentary in the research environment. Researchers have studied this  both as the lack of exercise but also by the amount of time spent sitting or watching television. However, a handful of research groups have attempted to control physical activity by either randomized trial or through small cohorts designed to invasive assess the physiology of exercise response. This is the science we will be looking at here.

The key is a balance in exercising

Physical inactivity is associated with a range of risk factors such as obesity and cardiovascular disease to name a few. When looking at the effect on the reproductive function, the research suggests that inactivity is not a good choice if you are trying to get pregnant.

A study of 1,210 men from Denmark on the effect of watching TV, researchers found that watching TV for more than 5 hours a day was associated with a decrease in the total sperm count as well as the total amount of progressive motile sperm cells. The researchers suggest that hours spend watching television is an indicator of physical inactivity.

Already at 2.6-5 hours of television a day, a minor decline in total sperm count and total progressive motile sperm cells was observed. In agreement with the finding, the participants who self-rated their physical fitness as poor had a reduction in total sperm count of about 35% [1]. This was also found in a study from Rochester of 189 men, where watching TV was associated with a 44% lower sperm count compared to non-television watchers [2].

A study of 161 individuals who were grouped as inactive, recreational active, and elite athletes showed similar results. The recreational active men showed an increase in total motile sperm cells of nearly 200% compared to the inactive men, which was associated with a lower amount of oxidative stress.

A lower amount of motile sperm cells and a higher amount of oxidative stress

Interestingly, the elite athletes had a lower amount of motile sperm cells and a higher amount of oxidative stress, suggesting that some elite sports may be harmful for fertility [3]. Other independent studies show similar results. The negative effect is a way of observing when over-training sets in, which is when a person exceeds their body’s ability to recover from strenuous exercise. At this point a person may have a decrease in performance due to fatigue. A study of 286 men who underwent 60 months of 120 minutes running 5 times per week, showed decrease in their semen quality was observed, as well as a decrease in testosterone levels[4].

So, the literature indicates that we should be moderately active, and not necessarily undertaking rigorous exercise regimens for the best fertility outcomes.

What type of exercise should you do?

We recommend you to check with your doctor first, if you haven’t exercised for a long time or have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis.

There are a number of studies showing that a training program of 14 to 24 weeks may improve semen quality and your chances of pregnancy [5] [8] [9] [10]. The studies investigated:

  • Aerobic exercise, also known as endurance exercise or cardio, which increases your heart rate and breathing frequency.
  • Anaerobic exercise, also known as resistance exercise or strength training, which works on strengthening your muscles, joints, and bones with e.g. weight lifting or resistance band workouts.

Positive effects were seen in mainly inactive males, starting a program with exercise 3 times a week for around 45 minutes. Both aerobic and resistance exercise were shown to have a positive effect on semen quality and reproductive hormones. The studies also showed some decrease in oxidative stress. Importantly, doing exercise increased the chances of the males becoming pregnant with their partner [5] [6] [7].

Other studies

In one of the studies of 1,296 men, exercise increased the total number of sperms by 84.7%, which resulted in 191 out of 285 men getting pregnant in the exercise group but only 7 out of 263 in the control group. Men with a low semen quality asthenospermia (low motility)/oligospermia (low sperm count) were impacted the most. The exercise they followed was a combination of aerobic and resistance training, which included 30-35 minutes of walking/running on a treadmill and then 30-35 minutes of resistance training with exercises for all major muscle groups. The exercises included:

    • Exercises to strengthen the upper body:

Bench press (pectoralis), chest cross (horizontal flexion of the shoulder joint), shoulder press (trapezius and latissimus dorsi), pull-downs (back muscles), biceps curls, triceps extension, upright row, trunk extension, and exercises for abdominal muscles (sit-ups).

    • Exercises to strengthen the lower body:

Leg press (quadriceps femoris), calf raises, hip extensions (biceps femoris), hamstring curls and hip abduction.

In the exercise programs from the studies, the men started at 50% of VO2 max meaning at 50% of their maximal pulse (220-age) and 50% of their 1 repetition maximum (RM) for the exercises, repeating 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

The men in the studies increased the intensity by 5% each week until week 4 where they reached 70% of VO2 max/1RM. They were then re-evaluated by professionals and started again.

The ExSeed exercise programs

As you can read from above, a balance in exercise is the key to healthy sperm. A little exercise is better than nothing – starting to go for a walk with your partner or performing light exercises are better than not doing anything at all. Make sure to get up during the office hours and don’t spend too much time sitting down.

If you want to kick start a training regimen you can find exercise programs in the ExSeed app where we have designed weekly plans for beginners and trained people.

Many gyms offer great workout team training that combines weight-lifting with cardio training that can feel really rewarding.

sit up with twist

Small changes can have a big impact on your overall health and your path to fatherhood. Most important is that you have fun when exercising and listen to your body, so you don’t overdo it!

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.