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How can wearable technology help improve male fertility?

Written by Julia A.B. Lindsay, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. She uses digital health methods, including wearables, to examine the impact of lifestyle factors on mental illness. Opinions expressed in this article are her own.


Man checking his wearable device about to go for a run
Image credit to Direct Media, Freerange Stock

Improving male fertility, or the ability of a man to reproduce, may seem daunting at first but for many men there are lifestyle factors that can be changed to increase chances of pregnancy (1).

Luckily, modern technology has made it possible to track and improve these factors. In particular, wearable devices such as smart watches, jewelry, and glasses can measure lifestyle factors and physical states such as physical activity, fitness, stress and body temperature, all of which are related to male fertility and hormone production. If you suspect male infertility, or have had poor male fertility test results, keep reading to discover how wearables can help increase chances of pregnancy from home – no trip to the fertility clinic required!


One of the main functions of wearable devices is to monitor physical activity and fitness, both of which are associated with male fertility. Physical activity is a measure of daily movement, and has been shown to improve sperm quality and fertility in animal studies (2). This also seems to be true in humans: sperm in physically active men tend to have better motility, meaning they move more efficiently, than sperm in sedentary men (3). The difference in sperm motility is most likely caused by hormonal differences including increased testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormones and luteinizing hormones in physically active men.


Over time, physical activity results in fitness, which is measured by the maximum amount of oxygen that your body uses during exercise, also known as VO2 max. Men with better fitness as measured via VO2 max have better sperm quality (4). Although a classic VO2 max test requires specialist equipment and a very hard workout, modern wearables can estimate the measure based on resting heart rate and physical activity levels (5). For someone aiming to improve their fertility, wearables can be used to monitor physical activity and fitness levels, for example by tracking the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity each week (6, 7). For men looking to evaluate their fitness, a good VO2 max should be greater than 40ml/kg/min (8). However, for both VO2 max and physical activity, values can vary greatly from person to person, so tracking change over time may be more useful than taking a single measure.


Another fertility-related measure that can be tracked and reduced via wearables is stress. Stress has repeatedly been shown to reduce semen quality (1, 9, 10). Although direct measurement of stress is challenging, it can be triangulated based on respiration rate, heart rate and body temperature as measured by wearables. In addition, some devices provide live stress reduction exercises when high stress is detected, such as breathing techniques or guided meditations. These exercises have been shown to be effective, with users reporting on average 16% fewer stress episodes and 28% fewer days spent feeling anxious (11).


Finally, a third factor which has been shown to reduce semen quality is heat exposure, since high testicular temperature reduces sperm quality (12). Potentially harmful heat sources include environment (eg. hot climates or workplaces such as factories or bakeries), elevated body temperature due to fever, and saunas (13, 14). Some wearable devices track body temperature which can be used to estimate testicular temperature in most cases. The exceptions are extended time periods spent sitting or cycling, both of which trap testicular heat (13).


These lifestyle factors all affect male fertility by increasing oxidative stress which results in damage to sperm cells (15).


I highly recommend putting your wearables to use and keeping an eye on your physical activity, fitness, stress, and body temperature as you work towards improving your chances of pregnancy. Since sperm completely regenerates within two and a half months (16), it shouldn’t take long for you to start noticing improvements in your male fertility test results – learn more about our postal, from home testing method here.


We would love to hear about what you’re using to track your fertility journey. From workouts to stress levels, and smart watches to rings, we want to bring your personal health tracking goals to life! Chat to us at @JackFertility on X and Instagram or via email at hello@jackfertility.co.uk.


REFERENCES


1. Ilacqua A, Izzo G, Emerenziani GP, Baldari C, Aversa A. Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on male fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2018;16(1):115.


2. Santos M, Rodríguez-González GL, Ibáñez C, Vega CC, Nathanielsz PW, Zambrano E. Adult exercise effects on oxidative stress and reproductive programming in male offspring of obese rats. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2015;308(3):R219-R25.


3. Vaamonde D, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME, García-Manso JM, Barrera N, Vaamonde-Lemos R. Physically active men show better semen parameters and hormone values than sedentary men. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012;112(9):3267-73.


4. Lalinde-Acevedo PC, Mayorga-Torres BJM, Agarwal A, du Plessis SS, Ahmad G, Cadavid ÁP, et al. Physically Active Men Show Better Semen Parameters than Their Sedentary Counterparts. International Journal of Fertility and Sterility. 2017;11(3):156-65.


5. Spathis D, Perez-Pozuelo I, Gonzales TI, Wu Y, Brage S, Wareham N, et al. Longitudinal cardio-respiratory fitness prediction through wearables in free-living environments. npj Digital Medicine. 2022;5(1):176.


6. Physical Activity: World Health Organization; 2022 [Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity.


7. Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64: National Health Service; [Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-guidelines/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults-aged-19-to-64/.



9. Gollenberg AL, Liu F, Brazil C, Drobnis EZ, Guzick D, Overstreet JW, et al. Semen quality in fertile men in relation to psychosocial stress. Fertility and sterility. 2010;93(4):1104-11.


10. Anderson K, Nisenblat V, Norman R. Lifestyle factors in people seeking infertility treatment – A review. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2010;50(1):8-20.


11. González Ramírez ML, García Vázquez JP, Rodríguez MD, Padilla-López LA, Galindo-Aldana GM, Cuevas-González D. Wearables for Stress Management: A Scoping Review. Healthcare [Internet]. 2023; 11(17).


12. Jung A, Leonhardt F, Schill WB, Schuppe HC. Influence of the type of undertrousers and physical activity on scrotal temperature. Human Reproduction. 2005;20(4):1022-7.


13. Thonneau P, Bujan L, Multigner L, Mieusset R. Occupational heat exposure and male fertility: a review. Human Reproduction. 1998;13(8):2122-5.


14. Jung A, Schuppe HC, Schill WB. Fieber als Ursache einer temporären Fertilitätseinschränkung des Mannes. Der Hautarzt. 2001;52(12):1090-3.


15. Walczak–Jedrzejowska R, Wolski JK, Slowikowska–Hilczer J. The role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in male fertility. Central European journal of urology. 2013;66(1):60.


16. Sharma R, Agarwal A. Spermatogenesis: an overview. Sperm chromatin: biological and clinical applications in male infertility and assisted reproduction. 2011:19-44.



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