Exercise and Fertility (1 of 4): Sedentary Lifestyle Choices and Risks to Fertility

Key Takeaways:

  • Studies have shown a correlation between sedentary lifestyles and decreased testicular function

  • Semen samples of two cohorts of men, sedentary vs. physically active, revealed superior results for those that were physically active in a variety of parameters

  • Even the busiest of individuals can alleviate negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle by stretching at work and taking daily 15-minute power walks

 

As the pace of daily life quickens, sedentary lifestyle choices continue to be more the rule than the exception, particularly in Western nations.

In fact, a World Bank report from 2014 declared that the tendency of some to lead sedentary lives amounted to a “global epidemic”. The article quoted statistics from the World Health Organization as saying that sedentary lifestyles are responsible for approximately 5.3 million deaths every year; in Latin America alone, the statistics say, physical inactivity accounts for about one of every 10 fatalities.

When it comes to the effects of sedentary living on male fertility, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) “detected some negative associations between a sedentary lifestyle and testicular function”. The study used cross-sectional information collected from 1,210 healthy Danish males who participated in the study between 2008 and 2012 at the time that each submitted to a required medical exam to determine their ability to serve in the military.

The more you move…

Specific behaviors covered by the Danish study included television watching (Americans reportedly watch an average of 4-plus hours per day), which was associated with lowered sperm counts. The study points out that the same associations were not observed with computer use and that sedentary living by itself might not be entirely responsible for decreased testicular function.

However, a 2011 study from the Harvard School of Public Health indicated that reducing the amount of television time for anyone could result in lowered risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes – maladies that could significantly impact a man’s overall health, including reproductive function.

Furthermore, a pair of 2018 studies cited by The Atlantic magazine delved into reasons behind dropping sperm counts in European and American men. While no single underlying cause or reason could be definitively determined, researchers for one of the studies said that the recent decline in male fertility might be traced to “chemical exposures or increasingly sedentary lifestyles”.

A history of slow-going effects

Findings from the more recent studies appear to echo suspicions voiced in prior ones. A 2000 study published in the British Medical Bulletin looked into the effects of men working in sedentary jobs as well as those participating in more sedentary hobby activities. These men were believed to spend less time on physical activity than their fathers had. The authors concluded that “no-one will dispute our increased sedation at work and leisure and already there is reasonably good evidence that this is bad for sperm counts”.

A 2010 study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences examined environmental and lifestyle choices and their effects on spermatogenesis (the production and development of mature sperm). The researchers found that it was “intuitively likely” that significant changes to activity levels in men over more recent decades have led to negative effects on the production of sperm “in adulthood”.

Sedentary lifestyles were once again the focus of research in a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Fertility & Sterility.  Semen samples of 15 sedentary men were collected for analysis and compared against samples of 17 physically active men. Results indicated that a variety of parameters were “superior” among men in the physically active cohort when matched against those in the sedentary one.

Taking the first steps

The good news is that the effects of so-called Sitting Disease can be mitigated. Of course, any exercise plan needs to be followed in conjunction with advice from your physician.

According to WebMD, those who find themselves anchored to a chair for long periods of time can begin to become more active by simply stretching, bending, and turning – working up to a goal of about 10 minutes’ worth every hour. And consider making an actual physical trip to that co-worker on the other end of the floor instead of shooting a detailed email; the problem that needs resolving might come to a solution quicker than by engaging in an electronic back-and-forth, and the exercise won’t hurt, either.

Other approaches to gaining more physical activity into an otherwise sedentary routine include gearing up for the end of the day by taking a 15-minute power walk mid-afternoon, a choice that WebMD says could make employees far more productive for the final two hours of the day.

In short, the same creativity that went into structuring a more sedentary routine can be leveraged to build a more active one. The Legacy man will also want to take advantage of storing assets and having them analyzed before anticipated periods of sedentary living.