Regular physical activity can keep a man’s sperm in tip-top shape, a new study suggests.
The research was published last month in the journal Human Reproduction. It looked at a sample of more than 700 healthy, relatively young men residing in China who signed up to be potential sperm donors. In addition to the thousands of sperm samples collectively donated, the men also self-reported their typical weekly level of exercise.
The top one-fourth of men who said they got the most physical activity—including light exercise like housework as well as vigorous workouts—were more likely to have agile, fast-moving sperm than the group who exercised the least, after accounting for other factors like age—an average 16 percent difference in sperm motility, the authors found. This was also true for the men who said they got the most moderate-to-vigorous exercise. Since sperm motility is one of the best markers of sperm quality, it’s not too big a stretch to suggest that regular exercise could boost fertility.
“Regular exercise may improve semen quality parameters among healthy, non-infertile men,” study co-author Yi-Xin Wang, a researcher at the Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Reuters.
That said, there are a few caveats to these findings. For one, the study relies on people’s recollections of their exercising habits, which are never perfect. And because it only looked at people at a single moment of their lives, it doesn’t prove that exercise definitely helps sperm stay spry over time. Maybe men already inclined or able to exercise a lot are different in other important ways that would improve their sperm’s health than those who aren’t active, for instance. In other measures of sperm health, such as overall sperm count, exercise wasn’t linked to any meaningful differences.
Oddly enough, there’s actually some evidence that intense, athlete-level exercise can have a negative effect on sperm. But other studies have found that a modest level of exercise can help with men’s reproductive health in general, and we know that regular exercise will help your body and brain stay healthy throughout your life. So feel free to take this as extra motivation for an active 2020.