There are plenty of simple lifestyle changes many people can make to give their sperm the boost they need!
Male fertility is the driving factor in up to 30% of couples who can’t conceive, and a contributing factor in over 60% of cases. The good news is that many factors which drive low male fertility often respond well to a few health and lifestyle changes.
The team of experts at Jack Fertility are here to support and guide on the fertility journey. They have put together some of the most important, yet simple, lifestyle changes which may improve the way those little swimmers swim.
Why make changes to your lifestyle?
Improving male fertility relies on producing more, healthy sperm. Men create millions of sperm every day. The process of generating each sperm takes around 74 days on average – so making positive changes now could lead to an improvement in sperm quality within just a few months.
7 Lifestyle changes to boost fertility
Many lifestyle habits that we might associate with improving general health will help to boost male fertility. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in the US have been urging couples trying to conceive to take control of their reproductive health by modifying and improving the lifestyle factors which significantly impact fertility.
1. A BALANCED DIET
A balanced diet is a key factor in improving fertility. Consumption of fruit and veg provides the body with antioxidants, which reduce oxidative stress within the testicles. They also provide nutrients required for sperm production, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid and Lycopene (tomatoes are a great source of lycopene!).
Foods which negatively affect fertility include those containing high-energy sugar (such as sweets and sugary drinks), which are associated with a reduction in sperm concentration and their motility. Excessive consumption of red meats, processed meats, dairy and soy products have been strongly suggested to impair fertility.
Swapping out some of those red and processed meats for fish and nuts rich in omega-3 fatty acids is a simple way to make a large impact. Polish researchers published their 2020 findings in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, stating that "a modification of lifestyle, particularly with regard to the diet, seems to be indispensable with regard to male infertility associated with semen quality."
Aim towards more colourful and Mediterranean style dishes rather than the plates of beige associated with the modern western diet.
2. REGULAR EXERCISE
Getting in regular exercise has been shown to improve hormone levels such as increased testosterone, and increases sperm health with improved motility. Studies have shown that doing mild aerobic training such as jogging most days of the week is optimal for good sperm health.
Whilst being too sedentary is poor for both general and sperm health, it has also been shown that getting in too much intense exercise can eventually lead to detrimental effects on sperm health. Overtraining can lead to reduced testosterone, and some forms of exercise such as cycling can lead to heat and physical damage to the nerves and vessels around the testicles. For a more complex analysis in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology check out a 2018 Italian study here.
3. MANAGING STRESS
The modern world is a stressful place, and stress can be difficult to avoid. Stress can lead to increased levels of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine – all of which increase oxidative stress and reduce sperm health. Chronic stress can even lead to a reduction in testosterone.
Taking time to take care of stress and mental health will both improve sperm health and sexual performance. This can come in many forms, whether a therapeutic approach such as counselling or mindfulness, or for some it could mean taking time to meditate or practice yoga – both of which have been shown to increase fertility.
4. MAINTAINING A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30, is generally accepted as impairing fertility by driving an increase in oxidative stress and testicular heat, resulting in worse semen quality. You can check your own BMI using the NHS's online calculator.
Improved diet and exercise as we’ve already described can make up part of a healthy weight management plan, which combined together may drastically improve fertility.
5. REDUCING ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Chronic and heavy drinking (over 20-25 units per week) can have a negative effect on sperm production, causing a reduction in all parameters of sperm health. Chronic drinking can decrease testosterone progesterone production alongside other hormones and factors which are vital in healthy sperm production.
Not only does excessive drinking
reduce the chances of conceiving, it also increase the risk of causing damage to the fetus through genetic damage. Reducing drinking to below 5 units per week is considered a healthy consumption and will optimise both personal and sperm health.
6. QUITTING SMOKING
Smoking increases oxidative stress in sperm production, and there is a correlation between increased smoking and reduced fertility. Quitting smoking completely is an ideal way to improve fertility as well as general health, but any reduction will have a positive effect all around.
7. LOOKING AT DAILY HABITS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE CONSIDERED BEFORE
Some things are less obvious as they’re not associated with general well-being. Spending long periods of time sitting or driving can increase testicular heat stress - as will wearing tight-fitting underwear, taking a hot bath or using saunas, or working in hot environments. Taking steps to limit these causes of heat stress should help improve sperm health.
How to find out if the lifestyle changes you make are having an effect?
If you want to find out if any of the lifestyle factors mentioned have improved fertility, we recommend taking a follow-up semen analysis test every 3-4 months so that you can track and monitor your fertility parameters.
In the same way that fitness tracking has become the norm in many of our lives, Jack Fertility are here to guide you along with our soon-to-be available helpful app and expert advisors who are more than happy to help you track sperm quality improvement progress.
Understanding which markers need improving requires expert semen analysis. Jack Fertility will offer a semen testing kit which can be carried out discretely and conveniently at home. Sign up for early access here.
Reviewed by Jack Fertility CSO, Maryam Rahbar, MSc, DPhil (pending), November 2022.