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Too much TV linked to low sperm count

5th February 2013

Watching too much television could render men less fertile than they otherwise might have been, a new study in the United States has found.


In a study designed to look at the relationship between physical activity, television watching and sperm quality and quantity, researchers found men who did more exercise had better quality sperm.  Those who watched the most television had the lowest sperm count and the lowest concentration.

The study focused mostly on younger men, and set out to discover whether being a couch potato could affect fertility.

Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health said, men who engaged in the most moderate to vigorous physical activity and those who watched the least television had the highest sperm counts.

According to lead researcher and doctoral student Audrey Gaskins, little is currently known about how  lifestyle affects semen quality and male fertility in general. She said it was exciting to be able to identify two potentially modifiable factors that appeared to have a big impact on sperm count.

Some semen quality studies in mostly Western populations have documented a decline in sperm count, although some studies have not shown this.

The reasons for the apparent decline are still unclear. However, physical activity has decreased while sedentary behaviour has increased over the same timeframe. This suggests a possible adverse effect of lifestyle changes on sperm quality, on top of the links with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Increased scrotal temperature is believed to adversely affect sperm quality, and sedentary behaviour may be a contributing factor. However, data on this are also inconsistent.

While little research has been done previously on how watching TV, one of the most common sedentary activities, could risk sperm quality, there is a documented link between intense physical activity like long-distance running and cycling and reduced sperm quality. However, the authors said there was little data to show the relationship between moderate physical activity and semen quality.

Gaskins and her team studied 222 male college students ages 18 to 22, who reported their television and DVD screen-viewing habits, along with their estimated number of hours and intensity of physical activity engaged in for the previous three months.

According to Sheryl Kingsberg, of University Hospitals/Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, the findings are not specific enough to draw conclusions.  But she said men in general should pay attention to their levels of physical activity, if they did not want to lose fertility.

It is unclear whether the effects of television watching and exercise are cumulative or reversible, she said, adding that it is already well-established that fertility and sperm quality decrease with age.

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