How Male Partners Can Increase Their 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.

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Exercise doesn’t just give you muscular arms and chiseled abs. It may also boost your sperm count—and therefore your chances of conception if you’re trying to have a baby.

According to a study out of Harvard, men who exercise for seven or more hours a week (an hour a day) had a 48 percent higher concentration of sperm than those who work out less than an hour a week. But that’s not all. Men who spent more than an hour and a half a week exercising outside had a 42 percent higher sperm concentration than those who spent no time outside. And men who spent two or more hours a week pumping iron had a 25 percent increase in sperm count compared to men who didn’t lift weights.

Researchers speculate that outdoor activity increases men’s levels of vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” which other research has shown helps sperm swim better and faster. Also, weightlifting has been shown to increase testosterone levels and improve insulin sensitivity, both factors related to higher sperm concentration.

Avoid This Sperm Count Zapper

Though physical activity boosts sperm count, one exercise in particular can actually have negative effects: cycling. In this study, men who rode a bicycle for more than an hour and a half a week had 34 percent lower sperm concentrations than men who didn’t bike. That might be due to the pressure the bike seat puts on the scrotum.

Why Sperm Count Matters

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

In addition to hitting the gym, take these steps to maximize your sperm count:

  • Bag the bacon. Eating lots of saturated fat (found in processed meats, full-fat dairy products and junky food) can reduce sperm count by 38% and slow down the remaining sperm’s swimming ability. Getting more omega-3 fatty acids, however, means higher sperm counts.
  • Stock up on fruits and veggies. Filling up on fruits and vegetables protects sperm quality and quantity by revving up the body’s defenses that keep them healthy.
  • Stay slim. Being overweight subtracts from your sperm count and ups the number of abnormal sperm in your arsenal. 
  • Pass on cigarettes. Smoking tobacco can cut your sperm count by up to 17 percent. There’s evidence that marijuana is also bad news, too.
  • Keep it cool. Sperm production needs temperatures cooler than the rest of your body, which is why hot tubs, a fever and even a desk job can decrease sperm count. And resting a laptop computer on your lap for just 10 to 15 minutes is enough to reduce potency and sperm count.

So, if fatherhood is in your plans, grab a set of weights or start pounding the pavement. Your swimmers will thank you for it.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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