Is Biking Bad for Men’s Sperm Count and Fertility?

At Trak we talk a lot about the importance of maintaining health and wellness for your sperm production.  And cycling is certainly a superb way to get in shape – good cardio, easy on the joints, gets you outside, and can fit into your regular daily routine.

But there’s one thing about cycling that is not-so-sperm-friendly – the seat.

You know, the common bike seat that looks something like this:

Bike seat and sperm count

Yep, looks like a bike seat to me.  What’s the problem?

The problem is that seats like not only raise your scrotal temperature, but they also apply 30-40% of your body weight directly to your perineum (a.k.a taint the sensitive region between your genitals and backside).

Dr. Steven Schrader – a reproductive physiologist at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health – conducted a study of bicycle-riding police officers in Seattle using seats like this one in 2008.

“That part of the body was never meant to bear pressure.  Within a few minutes the blood oxygen levels go down by 80 percent.” – Dr. Steven Schrader

Do you ever feel numbness, tingling, or soreness down there after riding your bike?  That’s because you’re choking off the blood supply.

 

Sounds similar to your arm falling asleep – no big deal right?

Maybe, but if you ride your bike frequently enough this extended choke-out can cause more severe damage.  Regular cyclists often report problems like erectile dysfunction, genital pain and loss of sensation.

Excessive bicycling has also been tied to drops in sperm quality.  Dr. Lauren Wise – a Professor of Epidemiology at Boston University – conducted a study of 2,261 men in the Boston area and showed that bicycling more than 5 hours per week was associated with low sperm count and motility.

 

So what – I can’t ride my bike anymore?

No, that’s not what we’re saying.  A lot of doctors actually think the health benefits of bicycling outweigh the negatives.

But it’s worth being mindful of how your cycling is affecting your body’s reproductive region, especially if you’re trying to conceive.  In general, try to avoid getting your parts hot, numb, or sore.

Even better – consider swapping out your bike seat for a “no-nose” model that shifts the weight and pressure from your groin to your butt.  Dr. Schrader’s study looked specifically at these seats and found significant improvement in men’s numbness, sensation, and erectile function after switching to the no-nose model.

No nose bike seat pressure plots
Pressure profiles in a traditional bike saddle (left) and no-nose seat (right). From Schader et al, 2008.

 

We realize that the no-nose seats don’t look as cool.  But if you’re trying to get pregnant, taking the choke-hold off your testicles likely won’t hurt and could make the difference.

 

References

Schrader, S. M., Breitenstein, M. J. and Lowe, B. D. (2008), “Cutting Off the Nose to Save the Penis.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5: 1932–1940.

Wise, L. A., Cramer, D. W., Hornstein, M. D., Ashby, R. K., and Missmer, S. A. (2010), “Physican activity and semen quality among men attending an infertility clinic.” Fertility & Sterility, 95(3): 1025-2030.