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Does watching too much TV make men less fertile?

There’s no doubting that fertility is a hot topic in the media at the moment, and with 1 in 6 couples struggling to conceive people are anxious to hear of any research breakthroughs that might help in their personal fertility journey. But how do you know which sources to trust and if this news could be beneficial to you? To help answer those questions, we’ve asked some of The Fertility Show’s key note speakers to give you an expert insight behind the headlines.

‘Watching too much TV makes men less fertile’ (Daily Mail, 13 August 2016):

It is often women who carry the shame and worry of infertility and yet men are a significant cause of problems in nearly half of all cases. So, this news is certainly investigating a credible and real problem for couples regarding fertility.

But what does the research find? Experts at the University of Copenhagen studied 1,200 healthy young men to see if a “couch potato” lifestyle affected their fertility. The results, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed that watching more than five hours of TV a day can cut a man’s sperm count by a third (37 million sperm per millilitre of fluid, compared to 52 million per millilitre among men who hardly ever watched TV). The report authors suggest that the results may be because those who watch too much TV are less likely to exercise regularly or maintain a healthy diet.

This research supports earlier findings from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2013 (as reported on BBC News Online 5/2/13). They asked 189 young men who were students at a university in New York to record how many hours they had been spending doing physical activity and watching TV in a typical week. The volunteers, all aged between 18 and 22, were also asked to provide a sperm sample for lab analysis. When the researchers compared the survey findings with the sperm test results they found the link between sedentary lifestyle and low sperm count. Men who were the most physically active (doing 15 hours or more of moderate to vigorous exercise each week) had sperm counts which were 73% higher than those who were least physically active.

Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield and former Chairman of the British Fertility Society, comments; “It remains to be seen if coaxing a TV-watching couch potato into doing some regular exercise could actually improve his sperm count. Or whether there exists an unknown fundamental difference between men who like exercise and those who do not which might account for the findings.

“This should be a relatively easy study to perform, but before all worried men hunt for their sports bag it’s important to note that other research suggests that doing too much exercise can be harmful to sperm production.

My advice would be everything in moderation - and that includes time in the gym as well as watching TV.”

For any couples trying to conceive it is sensible to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, moderate exercise routine, stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake. If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year or more (or six months if you’re a woman over the age of 35) by having regular unprotected sex and are still not pregnant, it’s time to see your GP. Your GP can do tests to identify possible fertility problems, and can provide advice on the next steps.


Professor Allan Pacey will be presenting the seminar “What men need to know about their fertility - testing it, boosting it, treating it” on Saturday 5th November at 15.30 at The Fertility Show, London.

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