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The Ultimate Guide to Sperm Motility

Swimmers - What's Sperm Motility, Causes and Improvements

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Want to get to grips with all things sperm motility? You’ve come to the right place. Motility is all about speed and how your swimmers move – so let’s get in the learning fast lane with this easy Sperm Motility 101 guide.

What is normal sperm motility?

Sperm motility is all about how your swimmers swim! Healthy sperm cells can make their way to the egg in a matter of seconds, and instinctively know where to go. However, if there are issues with your sperm health, it might mean that your sperm cells aren’t very fast or can get a little lost!

There are three different types of motility:

1) Progressive motility (PR) – sperm that swim actively towards the egg in a straight line, or large circles – this is what we want to see!
2) Non-progressive motility (NP) – sperm that don’t travel in straight lines, or swim in small tight circles.
3) Immotility (IM) – The sperm has no movement at all.

Even in a healthy semen sample, you may see a mix of all three types of motility. However, problems start to arise when the immobile sperm or non-progressive sperm cells outweigh the motile ones.

Of course, the higher the percentage of motile sperm cells you have, the higher your chances of conceiving. But generally speaking, anything above 40% motile is considered normal and you ideally want at least 32% to have good progressive motility – this is the WHO threshold and what we measure against with our home sperm tests. If you have less than 32% progressively motile sperm, this is classed as below normal and whilst it’s definitely not impossible to conceive, low motility can make it more difficult.

What causes low sperm motility?

Many factors can impact motility, from bad habits to injury – here are a few of the biggest contributors:


Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your overall sperm health as the toxins in cigarettes can cause havoc with your sperm production. One study found that men who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day were more likely to have low sperm motility.

Issues with prostate

Your prostate gland may be nowhere near your testicles (it’s actually in the rectum!) but it does play an important role in overall sperm health and particularly motility. Part of the liquid that makes up your semen is produced by the prostate. These secretions help to make the semen thinner (easier for sperm cells to swim in) and contain enzymes and hormone-like substances that directly correlate to sperm motility. Therefore if you have any health issues that impact the function of your prostate, you may notice you have issues with sperm motility.

Injury to testicles

Your testicles are a very delicate area of the body and prone to injury. Injury could occur through intense contact sports like rugby, through operating heavy equipment that could make contact with your pelvic region or even just through day-to-day activities (like dogs or kids jumping on your balls!) Testicular injury has been linked to various sperm health issues including lower sperm count and motility.


A varicocele is a condition where veins in the scrotum become enlarged and entangled. This impacts blood circulation and healthy sperm production and has been known to cause issues with sperm motility.

How can I improve my sperm motility?

There are many things you can do to help improve your sperm motility, some of which will also have positive impacts on your sperm volume and sperm count.

  • Exercising regularly and ensuring you have a less sedentary lifestyle
  • Taking control of your diet. Eating more sperm superfoods and less sugary or processed foods that could harm your sperm health
  • Try to get most of your nutrients from whole foods but give yourself a boost with a good male fertility supplement (our ExSeed Multi can help with that)
  • Make sure to be getting enough selenium (some studies have found that selenium intake correlates to improved motility)
  • Reduce the risk of heat damage by avoiding saunas, hot tubs and tight boxer shorts-wearing loose boxers and keeping your phone and laptop away from your testicles
  • Make sure you’re ejaculating regularly so that your swimmers don’t get lethargic (and aren’t in your testicles for too long where they are at risk of damage!)

If you make all these changes and still aren’t seeing an improvement, it would be a good idea to chat with a specialist in case there are any underlying health issues – like problems with your prostate – or genetic issues that could be the root cause of poor motility.

Can I get pregnant with poor sperm motility?

It’s definitely possible to get pregnant even if your motility isn’t at an ideal level – it might just take a little bit longer. Focus on ensuring you are timing sex correctly (and learning about your partner’s fertile window) and staying on top of a healthy lifestyle. If you are still struggling to conceive, assisted fertility treatments can be very helpful for those struggling with low motility.

If you have a mild to moderate case of low motility, you might want to start with IUI or ICI (artificial insemination) as this will give your swimmers a helping hand to reach the egg if they are a bit slow! IVF and ICSI also have good success rates for patients with low motility as they are

How can I test sperm motility?

A good starting point for any sperm analysis is to get an easy and fast at-home fertility test like ours! We measure sperm count, motility and sperm volume to give you a Total Motile Sperm Count, which is one of the best indicators of male fertility according to the World Health Organisation.

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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.