Can cycling make men infertile?

“Cycling just five hours a week ‘could damage a man’s fertility’” – that was a Daily Mail headline in 2010. But is there any truth in it?

The Daily Mail article summarised findings from a research project at Boston University, which surveyed 2,200 men attending fertility clinics. This found that, once other factors were balanced out, exercise levels had no impact on sperm quality.

However, when the researchers dug deeper into different types of exercise, they concluded that men who cycled for more than five hours a week were more likely to have fewer, less motile sperm than those who did other forms of exercise or who didn’t exercise at all.

They found that 31% of the cyclists had a low sperm count, compared with 25% of the non-exercisers; and that 40% of cyclists had sperm with low motility, compared with 27% of the sedentary men.

It was suggested by the academics that increased temperature in the scrotum or trauma through cycling could be the cause.

The widespread coverage of this research has led to a commonly held view that cycling can make men infertile, or affect a man’s fertility.

However, in 2014, scientists at University College London undertook the largest ever study of cyclists and found no link between the sport and infertility.

Their study of more than 5,000 men found no impact on fertility, even when they routinely cycled more than eight and a half hours per week. In fact, the study found that men who cycled between 3.76 and 5.75 hours a week had a decreased risk of infertility.

This finding is supported by another study by the Harvard School of Public Health, which found that 20 hours a week watching TV can reduce sperm count, while 15 or more hours of moderate to vigorous exercise a week may boost sperm count.

The myth that cycling can make men infertile stemmed from credible research, but it has since been overthrown by more expansive research. So, if your partner enjoys cycling, there is no need for him to give up – in fact it may boost his fertility, as well as leading to other health benefits.

Our experts at The Agora Clinic are happy to advise you on potential causes of infertility, how we can identify what might be preventing you from conceiving and potential treatment options.

What is an Enhanced Male Fertility Assessment?

An enhanced male fertility assessment involves more detailed male fertility tests.

It includes some additional tests of sperm health and function. And it gives a far greater insight into your reproductive health.

It can be very helpful if previous or home sperm tests have been normal and your infertility remains ‘unexplained’. Or when these tests have been abnormal but you have not been given an explanation as to why.

Sperm DNA fragmentation (SDF) is known to be higher in infertile men. Testing for Sperm DNA fragmentation measures the quality of sperm as a DNA package carrier, and it therefore is more significant than the parameters analysed in standard semen analyses.

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