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When trying to conceive, both partners’ fertility matters. While a focus is often placed on women’s health, male fertility is equally important and can be improved through lifestyle changes.   A sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact male fertility. For instance, men who sit for long periods of time may be more likely to develop late-onset hypogonadism, which can cause low testosterone, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and reduced sperm quality.

Also, men who sit for at least half of their work day are twice as likely to have high levels of sperm DNA damage according to research. This could be due to testicular heat stress, which can prevent sperm chromatin re-modelling during spermiogenesis. If a man is physically inactive, he also often becomes overweight or obese, which can negatively impact his sperm quality and structure. This can make it harder to conceive.

Men who abstain from involving in any physical activity or exercise often tend to be obese and overweight, thereby producing sperms of poor quality. Obesity does not only affect the quality of the sperm adversely but also alters the structure of its cells thereby reducing the chances of conceiving.  

There is a link between sedentary lifestyles and lower sperm counts. Research has found that men with more physically active lifestyles tend to have higher sperm quality compared to their sedentary counterparts. The good news is that even small changes can make a difference. Simple stretches, taking the stairs, or short walks throughout the day can help counteract the negative effects of sitting for long periods.

Despite the fact that a sedentary lifestyle causes infertility, there are techniques and exercises that will help you prevent and overcome the problem of infertility and increase your chances of conceiving. For more severe cases, you can always seek the help of an IVF specialist for your infertility treatment in addition, exposure to numerous environmental agents and lifestyle factors negatively affects male reproduction. This includes smoking and alcohol use, recreational drugs (such as cannabis, cocaine, opioids and anabolic steroids), poor nutritional intake, obesity, increased testicular heat, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and psychological stress.

Have it at the back of your mind that lifestyle habits are crucial and losing weight can improve male fertility. Obesity is undesirable because it can affect hormone levels, sperm production, and sperm quality, reducing the chances of conception. A healthy diet and exercise are the best ways to reach a healthy weight. Smoking can reduce ejaculate volume as well as sperm density and motility. Smokers might have a lower zinc content in their semen, which can reduce sperm production. The tiny hairs that help semen move along the tubes of the epididymis (the tube that transports sperm produced in the testes) may be damaged in smokers, which can also negatively affect sperm function. Smoking can also harm erectile function.

Continuing to smoke also puts your partner at risk through passive smoking. The good news is that these negative effects can be reversed if you give up smoking.  Drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of sperm. It lowers levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone (LH), which is one of the main hormones that controls the reproductive system. Alcohol raises oestrogen, which can contribute to reduced sperm production: one study found that drinking as little as five units of alcohol a week could adversely affect sperm quality.

All recreational drugs are not advised because they adversely affect male fertility by damaging sperm quality. If you’re using any of these drugs then talk to your doctor to work out a way to stop your habit.

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to be active for good cardiovascular health and to be at an ideal weight for fertility. But research has repeatedly shown that generally active men also have higher sperm counts than their sedentary counterparts. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week.

Stress can reduce hormones such as LH and testosterone. In theory, this can affect sperm quality, although more studies are needed to make a definite connection. Increased temperature of the testicles might impair sperm quality. Try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods with a warm laptop on your groin area or carrying a warm phone in your pocket. Also, don’t take long hot baths, saunas and Jacuzzis.

Instead, wear loose-fitting trousers and undergarments (such as boxer shorts). If you work in a hot environment or sit down for hours at a time, it’s important to move around and get outside regularly.

Diets that are high in processed meat, caffeine, red meat, saturated fatty acids and trans fats are linked to low quality semen. Fruit, vegetable, wholegrain and fish rich diets are linked to better sperm quality. Make sure your diet is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, folate, zinc and B12. These are best obtained from your diet, so aim to eat fruit and vegetables each day. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts or oily fish (including salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring) help sperm production.

If you have existing medical conditions that might affect fertility, such as sickle cell or other hereditary diseases, see your doctor for a preconception chat.

Similarly, if you are a man who has had groin surgery or treatment for testicular cancer, then you might want to discuss fertility with a doctor sooner. If you have not conceived as a couple after having unprotected sex for a year, then consult your doctor together; fertility treatment options such as IVF might be a consideration.

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