Home
Research provides latest cycling health scare, but authors say men had fertility issues anyway

Men who spend five hours a week or more cycling have lower sperm counts and semen quality than those who undertake most other forms of exercise, not to mention those who lead sedentary lifestyles, according to new research.

The study was led by Lauren Wise of Boston University, with the findings published in the journal, Fertility and Sterility, and followed previous research that suggested that cyclists were more likely than other competitive athletes to have poor quality semen and genital and urinary issues.

"However, we were uncertain whether we would find an association among a sample of men engaged in more moderate levels of physical activity," Dr Wise told Reuters Health.

She added that it was as yet unknown whether cycling itself actually caused the issues with their sperm.

The study sought to establish the relationship between exercise and the health of men’s sperm among 2,200 responents who went to fertility clinics.

Each gave a sample of semen as well as responding to questions regarding their health and the kinds of exercise they undertake.

The authors of the report found that once they had adjusted the data for variable factors such as weight, the type of underwear worn, blood pressure and use of vitamins, their was no greater propensity to have sperm problems among those who undertook rigorous exercise compared to those who did no physical activity.

But once the data were analysed by type of exercise, it was discovered that those who spent five or more hours cycling per week showed double the rate of having a low sperm count, and also demonstrated poor sperm mobility.

Nearly one in three (31%) of men who cycled five hours or more each week had a low sperm count, compared to less than a quarter (23%) of those who did no regular exercise.

Regular bike riders were also much more likely to show poor sperm mobility at 40% versus 27% of those who undertook no physical exercise.

Wise said that the finding might be explained by trauma or an increase in temperature in the scrotal area making bike riders more exposed to the risk of a lower sperm count.

However, she added that since the sample comprised attendees at a fertility clinic, the study might not reflect the population at large, since the men may already have been encountering problems.

"More studies are needed to replicate our findings before they can be considered causal," she concluded.

 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

13 comments

Avatar
Tony Farrelly [2856 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

Here we go again, when we were trying for our second daughter - I had some tests and was told that my sperm showed low motility (not moving about as much as they should have been). Said I was a cyclist (there had been scare stories even back then - over 12 years ago) the specialist was pretty scepitcal that it was the cause, citing stress, and any number of other factors that could also affect sperm count and motility.

He advised me to carry on riding, and sure enough next test everything was normal.

Avatar
OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

Hmm, maybe it's to do with the saddle. Ride standing up on the pedals and the problem may disappear. See how far that'll get you!

Avatar
nigel_s [41 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

How many kids has Chris Boardman got?

Avatar
Gregoire500 [104 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

''might be explained by trauma or an increase in temperature in the scrotal area''

My 'scrotal area' gets just as warm in the bath as it does cycling, and unless you're totally de-sensitised down there you wouldn't ride on for long on any saddle that will cause such 'trauma' to the babywand, would you?

For her to then add

''since the sample comprised attendees at a fertility clinic, the study might not reflect the population at large, since the men may already have been encountering problems.''
pretty much obliterates any kind of scientific objectivity instantly and reduces this 'study' to total speculation in my opinion. Even if cycling accounts for the 8% difference between non-athletes, they are already attending a clinic for the same problem which is not necessarily caused by lifestyle and are surely much fitter in other ways. Tosh!

Avatar
zoxed [63 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

Does the research differentiate between those riding wedgies, and those riding recumbents  3

Avatar
gazzaputt [207 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

Total bollox (pardon the pun)

4 kids here all conceived in double quick time!

I spend a minimum of 10 hours a week on the bike for the last 15 years.

Avatar
Cooks [490 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

I've ridden a few bikes in my time. So a low sperm count is probably a blessing....

I'll get me coat.

Avatar
Fringe [1047 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes
Cooks wrote:

I've ridden a few bikes in my time. So a low sperm count is probably a blessing....

I'll get me coat.

 24

btw..didnt Chris Boardman have about half a dozen kids during his pro racing career?.

Avatar
The _Kaner [693 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes
Cooks wrote:

I've ridden a few bikes in my time. So a low sperm count is probably a blessing....

I'll get me coat.

 4

If you'd been wearing a coat.....

Avatar
jmquez [1 post] 5 years ago
0 likes

My father cycled 100km 3 times a week for 15 years.

I am the 6th of 11 yes, ELEVEN brothers and sisters.

Another "study" that tries to get us off our bikes.

Avatar
jobysp [143 posts] 5 years ago
0 likes

Mine worked 7 months ago no problems  3

Avatar
merino [19 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Lance Armstorng is called to mind: even after chemotherapy for testicular cancer and years of riding his bicycle for i'm going to guess more than five hours a week, he still fathered a child without using sperm donations.

but i guess it is lance, so the rules might not apply.

Avatar
Ghedebrav [1098 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Fringe wrote:
Cooks wrote:

I've ridden a few bikes in my time. So a low sperm count is probably a blessing....

I'll get me coat.

 24

btw..didnt Chris Boardman have about half a dozen kids during his pro racing career?.

Yes, but isn't Boardman some kind of superhuman? Even his name sounds like a (admittedly peculiar) Marvel character - Board Man. I'd imagine he funds his low-price bicycle empire through stud fees. Him and Mario Cipollini both (though the latter isn't above providing the odd freebie).