Television could be another culprit for men's declining sperm counts


2013-02-05 22:03

Researchers have been trying to understand what’s causing men’s sperm counts and quality to decline. Now a new investigation shows too much time in front of the television just might be part of the problem.

The finding is supported by other studies that show exercise makes sperm healthier- specifically faster swimming and more perfectly formed.

Conversely, wearing tight garments can lead to fewer ‘swimmers’ and lower counts.

Smoking, exposure to metals, some medications, heating of the testicles from laptops, saunas and hot tubs and extended periods of bicycling have all been linked to lower sperm counts that in some cases is temporary.

Not enough exercise linked to fewer sperm

Several factors are suspected for recent findings that sperm counts are dropping in men over the past few decades, but researchers haven’t been sure why it’s happening. Lifestyle is suspected as a contributor.

For the study, researchers from Harvard set out to see if being sedentary could be part of the problem, so they measured sperm counts in 189 young men in New York State, comparing the findings to how much time they spent watching videos, TV or DVDs.

They also gathered information about how much exercise the men had in the preceding 3-months.

The most physically active men – more than 15 hours a week of exercise - had 73 percent higher sperm counts than those who watched TV every week.

Light activity had no effect on sperm counts. Only men who engaged in moderate to intense physical exercise had higher sperm counts.

Allan Pacey, PhD, British Fertility Society chairman and senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield said, "We know that men who wear too tight underwear have poorer sperm. So it’s not a million miles away from sitting on the sofa ... for too long and heating up your testicles for too long. It’s the same mechanism I would suspect."

Men who watched TV 20 hours or more a week had a 44 percent lower sperm count compared to men who watched TV the least.

The take home message is that regular intense exercise could improve sperm quality and quantity for men. The next time you’re watching your favorite movie, put in on pause and go for a vigorous walk or run. Your sperm will thank you.

Lower sperm count found in the study from too much television viewing may or may not affect a young man’s chances of starting a family, but it does show sperm quantity can take a dive from too much sitting and not enough moderate to intense exercise.

British Journal of Sports Medicine:
Gaskins AJ, et al "Physical activity and television watching in relation to semen quality in young men" Br J Sports Med 2013; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2012-091644.
February 4, 2013

Image credit: Morguefile