Peddling away male fertility?ShareThis
That old conundrum of whether cycling affects the quality of a man’s fertility has reared its head again in the last few days (forgive the pun) following the release of results from a research project looking at sperm health and exercise in 2,200 men attending fertility clinics.
The research by US scientists at Boston University found that while most exercise appears to have little relationship to either the quality or quantity of sperm, men who bike at least five hours a week have fewer and less active sperm than men who didn’t exercise.
Thirty one per cent of those who biked at least five hours per week had low sperm counts below normal, compared to 23% who did not get regular exercise. Nearly 40% of frequent bikers had low numbers of sperm but with good motility, versus 27% of men who didn’t exercise.
Trauma or temperature increases in the scrotum is often used to explain the relationship between biking and semen health. Previous research has also linked biking to genital or urinary problems and poor semen quality.
In 2009, research presented at the annual European Fertility Conference by Spanish scientists found that cycle training of the intensity undertaken by triathletes had a significant impact on the quality of their sperm. The study of 15 triathletes found those riding more than 180 miles a week had fewer than 4% normal sperm with sperm health and quality declining as cycling levels increased.
Researchers, however, felt that the “regular guy” who rides a bike for commuting purposes or leisure rises would be fine as recovery times and hours on the saddle would be less than someone engaged in regular cycle exercise.
Tips on how to safeguard fertility while cycling
1. Risks are more common in long-distance cyclists. Consider cycling less or taking plenty of breaks when cycling a long way
2. Choosing the right bike is important – make sure it is a good fit
3. The pedals should be easiy to use and not have too much resistance. If you are having to use a lot of force then you could suffer some damage
4. If you are suffering skin irritations and chaffing, adjust your saddle height
5. Consider getting a new saddle. Saddles with padding do not put so much pressure on the genitals
6. Don’t over-do the exercise. Exhaustion can lower sperm count
7. Wear loose fitting underwear when out on a ride
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