Marta Montenegro | PhD-c | MS | MSF | CSFN | CSCS
Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition, candidate | Fertility Counselor
Men on a mission: Make a sweat and boost your sperm count
It is not a secret that being overweight brings a laundry list of health issues, and fertility surely makes the list. However, to improve the fertility outcome do not just look at your waist but also at your partner pant’s size. And, as we know of the importance of making dietary changes to lose or to maintain our weight, most of the time we think that physical activity is an “extra” thing that it is not as important as the diet. Wrong! Exercise and a healthy diet are a marriage, but an unbreakable one!
Indeed, when 137 men who were seeking fertility treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center, between 2006-2012, were evaluated on the relationship sperm concentration and exercise, the study found that men who engaged on levels of moderate to high intensity exercise for seven hours a week, showed 48% higher sperm concentration than those who exercised less than one hour per week.
But, does the type of physical activity matter? It does. Outdoor activities and weight lifting were associated with the higher sperm performance result. The authors of the study attribute these results to the testosterone increase and better insulin management effect of weight lifting; whereas, outdoor activities may increase vitamin D which has shown to impact fertility.
Plenty of studies show that lifting weights in this manner: three to four sets, 8-12 reps, and selecting exercises that work different muscles at the same time – squats, pull-ups, push-ups, etc- produces the greater testosterone boost. Likewise, In a study, in which subjects with increase risk of type 2 diabetes – a condition mostly associated to years of sugar over intake and crippling the pounds- were put into a resistance training workout, twice a week, for 16 weeks, showed a favorable impact on insulin sensitivity and/or increased in the activity of the transporters of glucose to the muscles.
Nevertheless, never think that exercise works as a Deposit account. For good or bad, you better be making daily deposits to see your balance on black. Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., FACSM, professor at Missouri State University, explains in her article “Would you like to know?” published in the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, that exercising on a regular basis is particularly important as the effect on blood glucose control will be lost within days.
Glucose levels are affected for up to 12 hours or more after exercising while a transit exercise reduction or physical inactivity can substantially reduce insulin sensitivity.
When healthy subjects reduced their physical activity in three days from over 10,000 steps per day to 5,000 steps per day, postpandrial glucose (glucose levels measured after a carbohydrate meal intake) increased significantly, concludes the study “Lowering Physical Activity Impairs Glycemic Control in Healthy Volunteers,” published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
It’s worth to mention that as great as lifting weights and doing outdoors cardio may be on male fertility, if you like biking, hold the bike for a while. In the same study, those who bike for more than an hour a week had 34% lower sperm count than those who don’t bike. The pressure placed against the scrotum by a bike seat and/or the increased temperature in this area has shown to impair fertility. – Study from Harvard School of Public Health-.