Can Exercise Increase Sperm Count?

A higher sperm count may help if you and your partner are trying to conceive.

Exercise may boost your sperm count—and therefore your chances of conception if you’re trying to have a baby.

Updated on January 12, 2024

Exercise doesn’t just increase your endurance and build muscle. It may also boost your sperm count—and therefore your chances of conception if you’re trying to have a baby.

Research has shown that getting regular physical activity—particularly by lifting weights and/or exercising outdoors—is linked to having higher concentrations of sperm in semen as well as increased sperm motility. (Motility is the ability of sperm to swim, which is essential to the process of fertilizing an egg.) The benefits of exercise for sperm quality and quantity appear to increase with the amount of exercise performed per week.

Weightlifting has also been shown to increase testosterone levels and improve insulin sensitivity, both of which are related to higher sperm concentration. And exercising outdoors may contribute an added bonus: Getting more vitamin D, which your body produces when the skin is exposed to sunlight, might also offer the benefit of enhanced fertility.

The benefits of challenging your muscles

Working out at the gym is great, but you don’t necessarily need to log long hours in the weight room to get the potential fertility benefit from lifting. Men who reported lifting or moving heavy objects at work on a regular basis had 46 percent higher sperm concentrations and 44 percent higher total sperm counts compared to those who never lifted or moved heavy things at work, according to one study. The research, published in 2023 in Human Reproduction, looked at 377 men who were seeking infertility treatment with their partners.

If you don’t challenge your muscles in some way on the job, try to work some resistance training into your daily routine. That could be a quick visit to the gym or even a round of simple bodyweight moves like pushups, squats, and planks or exercises using resistance bands during your lunch break.

Be judicious about this form of exercise

Though physical activity in general appears to boost sperm count, one exercise in particular may have negative effects: cycling. Though the research is not clear-cut, some findings have suggested that men who ride bicycles for extended periods of time may have lower sperm concentrations than those who don’t bike. That might be due to the increased pressure or temperature the activity places on the scrotum, which contains the testicles that make sperm.

If you’re an avid biker or would like to take up biking and you are planning on conceiving, consult with your healthcare provider (HCP) about whether this form of exercise is your best choice.

Why sperm count matters

While men release millions of sperm with an ejaculation during intercourse, only a handful of them make it past the cervix and travel far enough toward the fallopian tubes to reach (and fertilize) an egg. The healthier the sperm (in terms of motility) and the more robust the sperm count, the more likely a single sperm will survive the marathon-like journey.

In addition to getting regular exercise (with some form of resistance or weight training), there are a few additional steps you can take to help maximize your sperm count:

Skip the bacon

Eating lots of saturated fat can reduce sperm count and slow the remaining sperm’s swimming ability, research suggests. Getting more omega-3 fatty acids, meanwhile, may contribute to higher sperm counts.

Saturated fat is found in high quantities in red meat, processed meat (like bacon and sausage), full-fat dairy products, and many types of processed and packaged foods (like potato chips and cookies). Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as are walnuts and flaxseeds.

Load up on fruits and veggies

Filling up on foods rich in antioxidants—like colorful fruits and vegetables—may help protect sperm quality and quantity.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight may subtract from sperm count and increase the number of abnormal sperm. 

Pass on cigarettes and booze

Smoking tobacco can cut your sperm count and there’s evidence that marijuana is also bad news. Heavy drinking may also contribute to reduced production of testosterone and sperm.

Keep things cool

Optimal sperm production requires temperatures cooler than the rest of your body, which is why saunas and hot tubs may decrease sperm count. Resting a laptop computer—which generates heat—on your lap may also reduce sperm count.

Article sources open article sources

Afeiche MC, Williams PL, Gaskins AJ, et al. Meat intake and reproductive parameters among young men. Epidemiology. 2014;25(3):323-330.
Dadkhah H, Kazemi A, Nasr-Isfahani MH, Ehsanpour S. The Relationship between the Amount of Saturated Fat Intake and Semen Quality in Men. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2017;22(1):46-50.
Finelli R, Mottola F, Agarwal A. Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Male Fertility Potential: A Narrative Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;19(1):328. Published 2021 Dec 29.
Gaskins AJ, Afeiche MC, Hauser R, et al. Paternal physical and sedentary activities in relation to semen quality and reproductive outcomes among couples from a fertility center. Hum Reprod. 2014;29(11):2575-2582.
Hajizadeh Maleki B, Tartibian B. Long-term Low-to-Intensive Cycling Training: Impact on Semen Parameters and Seminal Cytokines. Clin J Sport Med. 2015;25(6):535-540.
Jensen TK, Heitmann BL, Blomberg Jensen M, et al. High dietary intake of saturated fat is associated with reduced semen quality among 701 young Danish men from the general population. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(2):411-418.
Jóźków P, Rossato M. The Impact of Intense Exercise on Semen Quality. Am J Mens Health. 2017;11(3):654-662.
Mayo Clinic. Getting pregnant. Healthy sperm: Improving your fertility. May 13, 2022.
Mínguez-Alarcón L, Williams PL, Souter I, et al. Occupational factors and markers of testicular function among men attending a fertility center. Hum Reprod. 2023;38(4):529-536.
Raheem, Omer, MD. Does marijuana impact men’s fertility and sexual health? UChicago Medicine. April 29, 2022.
Sun B, Messerlian C, Sun ZH, et al. Physical activity and sedentary time in relation to semen quality in healthy men screened as potential sperm donors. Hum Reprod. 2019;34(12):2330-2339. Wise LA, Cramer DW, Hornstein MD, Ashby RK, Missmer SA. Physical activity and semen quality among men attending an infertility clinic. Fertil Steril. 2011;95(3):1025-1030.
Zańko A, Siewko K, Krętowski AJ, Milewski R. Lifestyle, Insulin Resistance and Semen Quality as Co-Dependent Factors of Male Infertility. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;20(1):732. Published 2022 Dec 30.

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