TV cuts sperm count - study

Sedentary lifestyle affects man's ability to reproduce, say doctors.

Watching TV cuts sperm count - research.Photo / Thinkstock
Watching TV cuts sperm count - research.Photo / Thinkstock

Men who watch more than 20 hours of television a week risk halving their sperm count.

A study has found a sedentary lifestyle can have a major impact on a man's ability to reproduce.

While regular, vigorous exercise was shown to boost sperm count, excessive television-watching can counteract its positive effects.

The study, published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at the lifestyles of 189 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 22, over a three-month period, to link environmental factors and semen quality.

It found an increasingly idle lifestyle might be a contributing factor to declining sperm levels.

Other factors assessed included medical or reproductive health problems, diet, stress levels and smoking.

Men who watched more than 20 hours of television a week had a sperm count 44 per cent lower than those who watched the least, it found.

Volunteers who were most physically active, doing more than 15 hours of exercise a week, had a 73 per cent higher sperm count

However, men who did regular exercise but also watched a lot of television had lower sperm counts.

The study has bolstered concerns that sperm counts and quality in the Western world have deteriorated over the past few decades. Between 1989 and 2005, average sperm counts fell by a third according to analysis of 26,000 men.

A worldwide drop in sperm count levels has also been accompanied by a rise in testicular cancer rates - double in the past 30 years - and in other male sexual disorders such as undescended testes.

A separate investigation last year challenged guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which suggests smoking and drinking can have an adverse effect on sperm stocks.

The study by researchers at the University of Sheffield and Manchester compared the lifestyles of 939 men with poor sperm quality with 1310 men with normal sperm quality. It found little evidence that a high BMI, excessive alcohol consumption or recreational drugs were contributing factors to sperm quality.

It also found that wearing boxer shorts rather than tighter underwear was linked to higher sperm levels.

Dr George Chavarro, from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, senior author of the recent study, said in general, very little was known about what influenced sperm count. There was even evidence that high levels of physical activity might have a detrimental effect on quality and quantity.

"I was sceptical of the results of the study on athletes because they are not representative of normal people," Dr Chavarro said.

"One of the few things we do know is that obesity lowers sperm count."

- Independent

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