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How Does Physical Labour Impact Sperm Health?

In recent decades, researchers have observed a decline of approximately 50–60% in sperm count, attributing causes to factors like poor diet, stress, obesity, inadequate sleep, and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. A new study has now unveiled a potential connection between sperm health and the physical nature of one’s occupation. This exploration into physical labor sheds light on how demanding jobs could influence sperm concentration and testosterone levels.

 

The Link between Physical Labor and Sperm Health

A recent study published in the journal Human Reproduction this year, delved into the relationship between physically demanding professions and enhanced testicular function. This study examined data from 377 male partners of couples undergoing infertility treatment at a fertility center between 2005 and 2019.

 

Positive Associations with Physically Demanding Jobs

Findings from the study indicate that men frequently engaged in lifting or moving heavy objects as part of their work reported a remarkable 46% increase in sperm concentrations and a 44% rise in total sperm count. In comparison, men who rarely engaged in heavy lifting experienced significantly lower sperm concentrations and total sperm counts. Similar trends were observed when comparing different levels of physical exertion at work.

Sperm concentration / Total sperm count:

  • Men who never move/lift heavy objects at work: 32.2 million sperm/mL / 82.7 million
  • Men who sometimes move/lift heavy objects at work: 40.4 million sperm/mL / 100.0 million
  • Men who often move/lift heavy objects at work: 59.6 million sperm/mL / 149.0 million

 

Moreover, men with substantial or moderate levels of physical exertion at work exhibited higher circulating testosterone concentrations, approximately 20% more than those with lighter exertion. Interestingly, these physically active individuals also showed increased estradiol concentrations, a hormone associated with various aspects of male reproductive health.

 

Unraveling the Relationship

While this study establishes a correlation between physically demanding work and improved sperm health, it doesn’t definitively conclude that physical labor directly causes better fertility or heightened testosterone levels. It’s plausible that individuals with naturally higher testosterone levels might be overrepresented in physically demanding occupations. Nevertheless, a solid body of evidence supports the idea that physical activity and exercise contribute to enhanced sperm health.

 

Role of Exercise in Male Fertility

The concept that physical activity benefits male fertility has been extensively documented. Research from 2019 indicates that regular exercise can enhance sperm motility, sperm count, and testosterone levels. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight through exercise is crucial for optimal sperm quality and hormonal balance. Excess body weight has been linked to issues such as hormone imbalances, inflammation, and poor sperm motility.

 

Exercise and Sperm Count

Moderate exercise, performed for at least three hours per week, can increase sperm count and motility. Notably, individuals engaged in physically demanding work, as observed in the Human Reproduction study, demonstrated higher sperm concentrations. Weightlifting has also shown positive effects on sperm count, with those in the highest quartile for weightlifting having a 25% higher sperm concentration.

 

Exercise and Testosterone

Exercise plays a pivotal role in boosting testosterone levels naturally. Research from 2012 revealed that physically active men had higher levels of testosterone, FSH, and LH—hormones crucial for sperm production. Notably, specific exercises like squats were found to stimulate higher testosterone and growth hormone synthesis than other exercises.

 

Taking Action for Better Sperm Health

Individuals with sedentary jobs can proactively enhance their sperm health and overall well-being by adopting specific measures:

  • Establish a regular exercise routine that includes weight lifting or other forms of physical activity.
  • Prioritize a balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits, while reducing consumption of processed, fried, and sugary foods.
  • Incorporate male fertility supplements to address dietary gaps.
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Manage stress levels effectively.
  • Ensure adequate sleep.
  • Minimize exposure to endocrine-disrupting substances, such as those present in plastics and hygiene products.

 

Utilize ExSeed’s Expertise

The correlation between physical labor and sperm health suggests a noteworthy avenue for further exploration in the realm of male fertility. While this study opens the door to new possibilities, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through exercise, balanced nutrition, and other wellness practices remains pivotal for optimizing sperm health and overall reproductive well-being.

For those seeking insights into their fertility status, ExSeed offers an at-home sperm analysis. This comprehensive analysis assesses the three most important metrics of sperm health and provides personalized recommendations to enhance the chances of successful conception, whether currently trying or planning for the future.

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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.

Stress

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.

Nutrition

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.

Vegetables
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.

Heat

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.

BMI

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.  

Alcohol

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”.

Age

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.