Too much TV could damage sperm production
February 4th, 2013
06:32 PM ET

Too much TV could damage sperm production

Semen quality is a much-discussed subject among scientists these days. Data suggests sperm concentration has been declining in Western countries over the past couple of decades - and reasons for the decline are debatable.

The lead author of a new study on the subject, Audrey Gaskins, has been studying the effects of diet and exercise on semen for several years as a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her latest research shows a lack of physical activity – and too much time in front of the television - may impact sperm count and concentration.

Previous studies have shown a link between physical activity and decreased levels of oxidative stress, Gaskins says. “Oxidative stress” is stress placed on the body as it tries to get rid of free radicals or repair the damage caused by them. Exercise may protect certain male cells from oxidative damage, Gaskins says, leading to increased sperm concentration.

Those findings led Gaskins to complete an observational study on young men’s exercise and TV habits as they relate to semen quality. The results were published online Monday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study

Gaskins and her colleagues asked 189 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 22 how often they exercised each week and how intensely they worked out. The study participants also recorded their TV watching habits.

Then at the clinic, semen samples were collected from each man. The semen was analyzed for sperm size and shape, motility, concentration and total sperm count.

The researchers also conducted a physical examination and looked at the men’s diet, body weight, reproductive history, stress levels and smoking habits to rule out other potential causes of their findings.

The results

The men who did moderate to vigorous exercise 15 hours or more per week had a significantly higher sperm concentration than those who worked out less than five hours a week. And the men who watched more than 20 hours of TV a week had almost half the sperm concentration as the men who watched zero hours a week.

Gaskins says the researchers found these associations between TV, exercise and sperm concentration regardless of the men’s diet, body weight or smoking habits.

Sperm motility and size/shape did not appear to be affected by exercise or time spent in front of the TV.

The caveats

The data used in this study came from a relatively small group of men, meaning it may not translate well to the general population as a whole. And only one semen sample was collected from each man; that sample could have been different from the participant’s “normal” levels.

The data was also self-reported – i.e., the study participants could have elaborated or underestimated the amount of time they spent doing a particular activity.

Observational studies like this (that don’t include a separate control group) make it impossible to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, Gaskins says. While there appears to be a link between physical activity and sperm concentration, the two could really be unrelated.

It’s also “not possible to conclude from these findings whether the observed differences in sperm counts translate into clinically relevant difference in fertility,” the study authors write.

The takeaway

This study doesn’t conclusively prove physical activity boosts your fertility, or that watching too much TV damages your sperm. But there is plenty of research out there on the other benefits of exercise.

Do yourself – and potentially your little swimmers – a favor by staying active. If that means giving up some TV time, so be it.

soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Dr. Go Nahds

    Humans developed language to be able to produce seminal (sic) journalism like this. Evolution still has a long, long way to go.

    February 4, 2013 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zombie kid

      I like turtles.

      February 4, 2013 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
    • That's just crazy talk

      Think I'll go watch some more TV

      February 4, 2013 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
    • Master of sparks

      Wow That was about the longest and convoluted story I have read in a while that, at the end comes to no conclusion at all. A non-story. But exercise is good for you...

      February 4, 2013 at 23:48 | Report abuse |
    • The All-knowing Oz Who Knows All!


      I ate a TV and now I can't make no babies.

      February 5, 2013 at 09:26 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Did you guys look up this Audrey Gaskins? Total hottie.

      Now why is she studying this? Must be a major turn-on for her.

      February 5, 2013 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Lets see a study with 189 men. No doubt probably funded by the the American Taxpayer for the unbelievable low price of a few million bucks. Probably one of the many pork projects thrown in to a bill passed by our incredibly incompetent and very clueless leaders on both sides of the isle who call themselves congress-people. (Needed to be fair and not call them Congressman anymore. I need to make sure I can offend both genders.)

      February 5, 2013 at 20:58 | Report abuse |
  2. keiyuuki

    Too bad it doesn't lower Testosterone count.. America needs a LOT less of it!!! Put estrogen in the water and calm the violent behavior a bit shall we?

    February 4, 2013 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ted

      go back to the kitchen

      February 4, 2013 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
    • Bo

      You even touch my water and I will rip your ovaries out!

      February 4, 2013 at 21:57 | Report abuse |
    • Master of sparks

      All three of you folks need a hug...

      February 4, 2013 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
    • medical mythology

      Hi estrogen levels make men aggressive. Look it up.

      February 5, 2013 at 00:29 | Report abuse |
    • Nanbawan

      Too much oestrogen leads to more cancer with women and decrease in sperm count to males which isn't a surprise.

      February 5, 2013 at 00:39 | Report abuse |
    • C.S. Deckard

      I know (hope) you're joking, but studies actually show that testosterone supplements reduce depression and anger, while increasing motivation, mental clarity and self confidence. Estrogen supplements, well...don't.

      Before everyone jumps all over this, this isn't an observation about gender, it's an observation about what happens when you have too much or too little of these hormones.

      February 5, 2013 at 00:58 | Report abuse |
    • Hank

      This is the most stupid feministic comment ever. I am not from US, but I can see clearly how males are becoming disposable gender. It's all about women. Women this, women that, let's destroy men. And here is the real problem. Society needs more REAL men and not more feminists. This is one of the biggest US and global issues – disappearing male!

      February 5, 2013 at 03:23 | Report abuse |
    • The All-knowing Oz Who Knows All!


      Woman shouldntt think too much about stuff.

      February 5, 2013 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
    • Kohl

      Testosterone has nothing to do with violent behavior. Violent behavior comes from having screws loose in your head from growing up with bad parents. Look at the kids who shoot up schools, they are skinny awkward little creeps...the opposite of having too much testosterone.

      February 5, 2013 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
    • HooHah49

      We could do that, but then whoever would you call when your chestnuts are again roasting over an open fire???

      February 5, 2013 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Keiyuuki, you confuse testosterone with stupidity and lack of civility, the two are not mutually inclusive. When I was a young man my libido, stamina and physical strength were through the roof, but my family had raised me to be a gentleman...so I was.

      February 6, 2013 at 08:31 | Report abuse |
  3. JJ

    This certainly explains why latinos are outnumbering whites in one heck of a hurry! LOL!

    February 4, 2013 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Tom

    Not possible. I procreated while watching TV.

    February 4, 2013 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. B

    My wife watches TV a lot and has an incredibly low sperm count.

    February 4, 2013 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • The All-knowing Oz Who Knows All!

      My children watch TV before and after pre-school, and so far I have no grandkids so this much be true.

      February 5, 2013 at 09:28 | Report abuse |
  6. Brad

    I don't even own a TV and I have a low sperm count. I do, however, work 40 hours a week in front of a computer. Let's blame that.

    February 4, 2013 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. e

    This might be the dumbest study I have ever read about. I have a high sperm count and I'm in front of a tv or computer screen 10-12 hours a day for the past 20 years.

    February 4, 2013 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Michael J.

    It's all Bush's fault.

    February 4, 2013 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. borat

    If TV can do that then computer can as well, now i know my problem.

    February 5, 2013 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jeannettelj

    This is agood thing. Over population will eventually destroy the world.

    February 5, 2013 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. medical mythology

    The hell with sperm cells.
    I want to know what brought creativity to such a screeching halt.

    February 5, 2013 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. apathy

    This reminds of the movie called "Children of Men" with exception that men are becoming in a way sterile and incapable. Those who say Earth is being overpopulated some day you might eat your words.

    February 5, 2013 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Seth Hill

    Maybe cause-and-effect are reversed; maybe men with more testosterone and sperm feel more macho and feel the urge to exercise more.

    February 5, 2013 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dapple

    .... My sperm count must be pretty close to non-existent at this point then. lol.

    February 5, 2013 at 01:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. God

    Positive effect:
    -Less chance of pregnancy from raping
    -Less rate of raping
    -Less rate of teenager pregnancy
    -Less rapers

    February 5, 2013 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • The All-knowing Oz Who Knows All!

      Do you mean less "rappers?"

      February 5, 2013 at 09:29 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      WOW, you must die a little bit every day, living in such abject terror...

      February 6, 2013 at 08:35 | Report abuse |
  16. unschoolparents

    Watch all the sports I want, and no babies too. Win-win.

    February 5, 2013 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tyler

    Not if you're watching pron!

    February 5, 2013 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jagger

    This is stupid. It's obviously due to the lack of the sampled people's activity, not the TV doing it.

    February 5, 2013 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. FiveLIters

    1...2...3...aw dang,I lost count!

    February 5, 2013 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. dingbat

    Federal government needs to get involved and determine how much tv men should be allowed to watch. When people are microchipped according to the Obamacare policies, then government can (hopefully) monitor how much tv folks watch. Then Mr. Prez can issue another executive order to make men do what he feels is best for them.

    February 5, 2013 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. dingbat

    Mr Obama could use this as a reason to issue an executive order to tell men how much tv he thinks they need to watch.

    February 5, 2013 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FirstWorldProblems

      Don't give him any ideas.

      February 5, 2013 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
  22. FirstWorldProblems

    You get to watch TV, and you have a lower chance of getting your girlfriend pregnant. Sounds like Win-Win to me.

    February 5, 2013 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. BJ

    It is not the TV or the exercise. It is the over use of caffeinated soda drinks (Coke, Pepsi, etc.) to blame, you fools.

    February 5, 2013 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CJ

      My daughter's father consumed lots of caffeinated drinks, didn't exercise a lot, we watched a LOT of TV together (and also played a lot of video/computer games), and I was on the pill and took it exactly as prescribed – and yet, my daughter still exists. Maybe his sperm just got super-concentrated and managed to plow through all those obstacles. If anything, my first thought would be that something that causes the higher sperm counts in some men also drives them to be more physically active in the first place.

      February 5, 2013 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
  24. Him

    Not to mention how hard it is to clean off the flat screen.

    February 5, 2013 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jim in PA

    Hey CNN – If the study itself admits that it is inconclusive then why are you writing a story about it? Do you have available space now that you can't run any more Mayan apocalypse stories?

    February 5, 2013 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. C. R. Darwin

    The subjects were between the ages of 18 and 22. These are not men, these are boys! LOL!!

    February 5, 2013 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jorge

      Really?? When I was 20 I could probably knock a girl up by just bumping into her.

      February 6, 2013 at 08:38 | Report abuse |
  27. GeorgeBos95

    The researcher conducted an experiment with a frog...

    They amputated one leg, and told the frog to jump .. and it jumped.

    They amputated a second leg, and told the frog to jump .. and it jumped.

    They amputated a 3rd leg, and told the frog to jump .. and it jumped.

    They amputated the 4th leg, and told the frog to jump. It didn't move.

    The researcher concluded ... remove all 4 legs ... frog goes deaf.

    February 5, 2013 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Joe

    Did you guys look up this Audrey Gaskins? Total hottie.

    Now why is she studying this? Must be a major turn-on for her.

    February 5, 2013 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. XS

    Did she collect data with her own hand?

    February 5, 2013 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. The Bodacious


    February 5, 2013 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Obvious

    Was there an inverse correlation between exercise and tv-watching?
    What about people who exercised a lot and watched TV a lot?
    I imagine it's not about TV at all...

    February 5, 2013 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RealityWatch

    I feel like having sex just reading this article....

    February 5, 2013 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. slimBodidicus

    I never let my sperm watch TV

    February 5, 2013 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Garth

    Your tax dollars, hard at work! Give them a grant!!1!

    February 5, 2013 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

    Mmmmmmmm... sperm

    February 6, 2013 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. boungiorno

    grow up MORONS

    February 13, 2013 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. multivatiminformenreview

    Thank you for your article and sharing useful information. Sometimes we just can't handle things very well ,even though we know that it is unhealthy habit if watching too much TV. We have to make our health a priority. Keeping ourself healthy is really important. This is our investment to have a good life.

    February 17, 2013 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. CoolDude69

    "Semen quality is a much-discussed subject among scientists these days."

    Scientists and I have similar interests.

    March 9, 2013 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Rob Wilson

    Great article. Personally I have found that increasing testosterone by using testosterone pills for men should help a great deal with this issue as well as other benefits.You may also visit https://www.dtapclinic.com to get more men's health informaiton.

    September 16, 2018 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 16, 2018 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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