In light of the tour down under coming to Adelaide, we wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as touching on the effects of cycling on male fertility.
We are not trying to discourage cycling, in fact, pursuing an active lifestyle is highly encouraged. However, if you are an avid male cyclist undergoing fertility treatment and have received a poor semen analysis, then you could consider modifications to your regular cycling habits. Small changes such as seat and handlebar position or the amount of cycling undertaken could lead to vast improvements in your swimmers!
You may not be aware that riding a bicycle can also have an effect on sperm quality. A study in 2015 examined the effects long-term low-to-intensive cycling on semen parameters in 24 healthy males. A semen analysis was performed prior to, during and at the end of a 16-week low-to-intensive cycling training class. The results showed that all semen parameters (i.e. the number, shape and movement of sperm) significantly decreased after the 16-week training period (1). How, you may be wondering? When riding a bike there is direct pressure on the perineum (the region between the genitals and the backside) which can lead to a reduction in blood supply to this area. This has been linked with sexual dysfunction and may also adversely affect spermatogenesis (the process of generating new sperm) (2). Despite the evidence, doctors often find the benefits of being active via riding a bike far outweigh any potential negatives.
It is clear that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, along with carbohydrates, fibre and folate is good for men and women alike, not only to help sustain energy levels and allow you to pedal for hours, but also improve fertility parameters such as semen quality (3). The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are able to rid our cells of reactive oxygen species (ROS – by-products of cellular respiration) which have been shown to have a negative effect on sperm number, movement, quality and function (4). Furthermore, increased amounts of fat and protein in men’s diets has also been associated with poor semen quality (3) and can be more likely to cause a stitch while riding! Simply eating your 2 fruit and 5 veg as recommended by SA health is a great step in the right direction to improving mental and physical well-being.