Moderate Intensity Continuous Training (MICT) for three and five times a week is linked to improved sperm count and other measures of sperm quality in just a six months, reveals a study.
The study was published in the journal Reproduction.
Researchers from Urmia University in Iran found that men exercising moderately and continuously improved their sperm quality more than those following popular intensive exercise programs like High intensity interval training (HIIT).
The current advice for men, who are seeking to improve their chances of conceiving include combining healthy eating with regular exercise while giving up smoking and reducing the intake of alcohol.
“Our results show that doing exercise can be a simple, cheap and effective strategy for improving sperm quality in sedentary men,” said lead study author Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki.
“However, it’s important to acknowledge that the reason some men can’t have children isn’t just based on their sperm count. Male infertility problems can be complex and changing lifestyles might not solve these cases easily,” Maleki added.
However, the link between exercise and sperm quality is not definitely proven.
The team set out to investigate whether the time men spend exercising and the intensity at which they work out have an impact on sperm quality.
They investigated 261 healthy men aged between 25 and 40.
They assigned each participant to one of four groups: moderate intensity continuous training (MICT), high intensity continuous training (HICT), high intensity interval training (HIIT) and a control group that did not exercise.
MICT and HICT exercises consisted of running on a treadmill for half an hour and one hour for three to four days per week, respectively.
HIIT consisted of short one-minute bursts of sprinting on a treadmill, followed by a one minute recovery period, repeating between ten to fifteen times. These routines were followed during a 24-week period.
Semen samples were taken before, during and after the different exercise regimens to assess the men’s semen volume, sperm count, morphology, motility, levels of inflammatory markers and their response to oxidative stress.
The findings reveal, after completing the 24-week program, the MICT exercise group showed the biggest improvements in sperm quality and also maintained these benefits for longer.
All exercise groups had improved sperm quality across all measures when compared to the samples from the control group.
However, the benefits to sperm count, shape and concentration started to drop back towards pre-training levels after a week of stopping the exercise program and sperm motility 30 days afterwards.
The authors noted that while losing weight in general is likely to have contributed to improving sperm quality, MICT may have had the most profound impact on sperm quality because it reduces the gonad’s exposure to inflammatory agents and oxidative stress.