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The Benefits of Nature for Your Sperm Health

Enjoying the great outdoors is known to have a bunch of benefits for our physical and mental well-being. But did you know that spending time in nature could potentially help your fertility? Here we’ll break down the potential reasons your swimmers might prefer the countryside to the city.

 

Can time in nature really help your fertility?

Potentially! In a 2021 study, researchers explored the correlation between the amount of greenery men were surrounded by in their local area (residential green spaces) and sperm quality. The Chinese study analyzed over 9,000 participants and the results were pretty interesting. They found a significant correlation between exposure to ‘residential greenness’ and an increase in sperm count, volume and overall sperm health.

 

Why is time in nature good for sperm?

Whilst we still need a lot more research into the impact of nature on sperm quality, there could be a few reasons why it seems to have a positive effect on our fertility.

Exercise and Weight

We’ve written a lot about the best exercise for male fertility and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight if you are trying for a baby. Whilst many people can exercise without venturing into nature, there does seem to be some correlation between people that love the great outdoors and those who have a healthy BMI. A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that participants who spent time in green spaces were more likely to be physically active and better at keeping within a healthy weight range. Men who are overweight or obese are more likely to encounter sperm health problems – so this could potentially explain the connection!

Clean Air

City living might come with great options on Deliveroo – but it also comes with a lot of air pollution. Polluted air is not only bad news for our lung capacity but it can also harm our sperm health too. A study of thousands of couples in China found that those living with higher levels of small-particle pollution were 20% more likely to face infertility – which this study defined as not becoming pregnant within a year of trying.

Whilst this particular study did not discover exactly how air pollution impacted fertility – it could well be down to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. EDCs are chemicals that can be found in plastics, fragrances, domestic cleaning products – and in some cases air pollution. These chemicals work by mimicking the hormones in your body and attaching themselves to your receptors. This can confuse the body into thinking you have hormones that aren’t really there – which can lead to imbalances and underproduction. If the hormones in question are sex hormones – like testosterone or estrogen – then this can play havoc with your sperm health.

Reduced Stress

There are plenty of studies that support the idea that spending time in nature reduces our stress levels and supports our mental well-being. Whilst the link between stress and fertility needs to be explored further, we know that when the body is under stress it deprioritizes what it deems ‘unnecessary functions’ like reproduction. The rush of cortisol caused by stress can also play havoc with our hormonal balance, which can undoubtedly impact our fertility. In a Danish study from 2016 with 1,215 male participants, the results showed that high self-reported stress is associated with lower semen volume, total sperm count, and sperm concentration, as well as a lower number healthy looking sperm cells. Men with the highest stress scores showed to have the most affected parameters. If spending time in nature can help us have lower stress levels, it makes sense that it could help us on our fertility journey too.

Less Time Around Tech

Whilst remote working might be commonplace nowadays if you’re hiking up a mountain or strolling through the forest, the chances are you’ve left your laptop at home. Modern technology has a sneaky way of impacting your swimmers and it’s all to do with heat. Our phones and laptops kick out quite a bit of heat and when you think about where they usually are (phone in your pocket, laptop on your lap) you’ll realize how much they could be warming up your scrotum.

When sperm cells are exposed to constant heat they become damaged. This can not only kill off some of your perm cells, so that your count is low, but it can also leave some alive but pretty broken, which can be when you see issues with low motility or abnormal morphology. This damage can also harm the genetic content of the sperm cell – this is known as DNA Fragmentation. All of this damage makes it harder for the sperm cells to travel to and fertilize the egg – and even if fertilization happens, it may not result in a healthy pregnancy. The obvious ways to avoid heat damage are to avoid things like saunas and hot tubs – but taking time away from your tech gadgets and getting out in nature is another good one!

Increased Vitamin D

The more time you spend outside, the more sunlight you are exposed to and that means more chance of topping up your Vitamin D levels. A 2016 study found a link between vitamin D deficiency and low sperm motility, so it’s a good idea to get that Vitamin D whenever you can.

In the Northern Hemisphere, we rarely get enough sunlight to keep Vitamin D at an optimum level- but getting outside in the morning in the middle of the day – or as much as possible really! – can help to give you a boost. Vitamin D supplementation is another way to help ensure your levels are where they should be – and studies have shown that this supplementation can have a good effect on sperm quality. Exposure to sunlight can help reduce stress levels and improve your sleep pattern which can all be helpful for your fertility.

Whilst we still need more research to cement the connection between the great outdoors and sperm health – it’s clear that going for a hike, a wild swim or a simple walk around your local park isn’t going to do any harm to your fertility – and will be good news for physical and mental health!

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