Our expert says:
While your friends may be right — biking has gotten some negative attention in relationship to male infertility — you do not have to sell your bike. In most instances, cycling enhances general good health. Of course, you can be attentive to any unusual sensations felt below the belt when biking, but this doesn't necessarily mean that you are endangering your reproductive abilities.
The average cyclist is not logging enough miles to worry about any fertility impairment, and the health benefits of cycling in terms of cardiovascular perks far outweigh the potential sexual health problems. Your fertility is often a reflection of your general health. If you are healthy and abide by principles of good healthy living, chances are your sperm will also be healthy. Avoiding obesity and stress are important in healthy fertility, and biking can be essential in steering clear of both of those things.
According to one study, men who maintain grueling mountain-bicycling programs on rough terrains are apt to have lower sperm counts and more abnormalities of the scrotum than non-bikers. These subjects, however, spent more than two hours a day, six days a week, riding mountain trails for 7 to 28 years, much more than even most avid cyclists would.
In this same study, semen samples also revealed that the mountain bikers had lower sperm counts than the non-bikers due to higher scrotal temperatures during strenuous cycling. Higher scrotal temperatures destroy sperm. The fact that the scrotum is squashed between a body and a seat doesn't help; traumatic compression, which occurs when nerves in the perineum (the area of skin from underneath the testicles to the anus), including the artery that feeds the penis, are pinched can result. In addition, there's microtraumatization — calcium deposits in testicles. This calcification seems to result from "repeated chronic microtraumatization" of the scrotum, causing scarring of blood vessels inside the testicles. Microtraumatization may cause sperm to be less mobile.
People can now buy bikes with shock absorbers and padded seats or one of the many specialized seats available. At least three manufacturers of bike seats have addressed the issue of traumatic compression. One manufacturer of biking accessories designed "the Eliminator," which shifts the rider's weight off the perineum. The seat has a long groove down its middle and is hollowed out in front. This company now offers several seat models for street and mountain bikes. Other manufacturers also have designs that shift the rider's weight off of the perineum. Bicycle shops should be knowledgeable in helping someone to find or recognize these specialized seat designs.
Additional ideas for avoiding urological bike trauma include:
Making sure the seat is level, pointing the nose of the seat downward a few degrees.
Checking to see that your legs are not fully extended at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Your knees need to be slightly bent to support more of your weight.
Being wary of spending significant time on aero bars, handlebars that increase a rider's speed. The rider's position is changed to become more aerodynamic, therefore encouraging riding on the nose of the seat.
Standing up every 10 minutes or so as you ride to encourage blood flow through your genitals.
Moving your body off of your seat when riding over railroad tracks, trail debris, or washboard terrain, using your legs as shock absorbers instead.
Being aware of any numbness down below when you ride.
Depending upon your age and reproductive plans, you may want to see if you're fertile to begin with. If you are trying to conceive, staying away from excessive drinking and smoking can boost your fertility. Heavy drinking can lead to a decrease in sperm count and movement, and smoking harms sperm's mobility. Recreational drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and anabolic steroids, can harm sperm health. Sperm develop over a three-month period; as a result, your mature sperm today may have been affected by how you lived three months ago.
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