Infertility is a far bigger problem than most people believe. In fact, one in three couples experience difficulty conceiving. That doesn't mean they are completely incapable of conceiving; rather, they must jump through a number of ‘hoops’ in order to achieve their dreams of finally having a child.
It is probably because of the prominence of infertility that Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki and a team of researchers from the Uremia University of Iran set out to determine the best way to improve the quality of sperm in men who are struggling in this area. For many couples, IVF is their only source of hope when it comes to combating infertility; however, this treatment option is quite expensive. More importantly, it cannot guarantee results. Additionally, this approach makes no effort to resolve the issue of poor quality sperm which can cause all manner of problems, from birth defects to miscarriages.
How can you go about improving the quality of sperm in men struggling to conceive? There are a number of options that have been recommended over the years. They all require the men to undertake drastic changes in their lifestyle. This includes avoiding destructive habits like drinking and smoking.
Exercise is often touted as an effective approach as well; however, does it really work? Will the time spent in the gym make any real difference? And how much exercise must you do to manifest real results? Those are the questions the Uremia University team sought to answer.
Their study constituted over 200 men between the ages of 25 and 40. Most of the men were subjected to a regular regiment of exercises lasting at least 25 minutes and executed three days out of every week. They were also grouped based on the intensity of their exercises, ranging from moderate-intensity to high-intensity continuous training and high-intensity interval training. There was a control group that didn't exercise at all. The groups were observed for 24 weeks. Their semen was collected before, during and after those 24 weeks. The samples were analyzed and it was observed that the quality of sperm improved in all the groups except for those men that didn't partake in any exercises (control group).
The moderate-intensity continuous training group manifested the most impressive results. Their sperm was not only more mobile (12.4 percent higher) and more concentrated (14 percent higher), but there was improved morphology (17.1 percent higher) and more sperm cells (21.8 percent higher). These results were short-term, lasting roughly thirty days, but they were definitely encouraging, proving that exercise is a relatively cheap but effective method for improving sperm quality.
This study, published in the Reproduction journal, didn’t determine whether the improved sperm (from the men that were exercising) had an augmented ability to fertilize though. Further research is required to determine whether exercise translates into improvements in fertility.