We've heard it before: habits affect health. When it comes to fertility struggles, this can be true. If the culprit of your TTC trials is low sperm count, there could be medical or environmental causes, but there are also lifestyle factors to consider.
A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health reported that men who view more than 20 hours of television per week had a 44% lower sperm count than their counterparts who watched almost no TV.
We live our lives differently these days and prior to this study less attention was paid to how we eat, how much television we watch, and how active we are. This study suggests that those lifestyle choices can impact sperm count.
The men in the Harvard study were quizzed about their diets, stress levels, whether they smoked or not, and their television viewing habits. A quarter of these study participants, (ages 18 through 29) logged over 20 hours of television time weekly, and their sperm counts were substantially lower than those who rarely watched and opted for regular weekly—an average of 14 hours—exercise.
Physicians who specialize in fertility issues are seeing a disproportionate number of obese people in their practices. It's easy to conclude that men who habitually watch a lot of television are less active and get less exercise. You simply don't work up a sweat surfing channels.
Sedentary activities like gaming and computer time play a part, but Jorge Chavarro, senior author of the Harvard study and an assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the school believes that he knows why overindulgence in watching television specifically lowers sperm count. "A lot of research has explored how television viewing increases obesity," he says. "One of the important mechanisms of TV is the viewer being exposed to commercials for food. This makes you hungry and you eat more."
The lethargy that comes from hours of watching the tube, combined with a tendency to mindlessly snack during viewing can have major repercussions for sperm health. Weight factors certainly impact sperm count. In some overweight men, the endocrine system can malfunction, lowering testosterone levels. Often these individuals develop oxidative stress, a chemical reaction that is most usually found in men who rarely exercise and whose diets contain an over-abundance of fatty foods. Obesity can cause hormone changes that reduce male fertility, and having a low sperm count decreases the odds that one of the sperm will fertilize the partner's egg, resulting in pregnancy.
An appetite for television and unhealthy snacks can be replaced with better food choices and a more active lifestyle to reverse the condition and increase sperm count. The first step is for couch potatoes to get up, and to get moving.