The effects of exercise on reproductive function in men

Sports Med. 1989 Jan;7(1):1-17. doi: 10.2165/00007256-198907010-00001.


Physical activity has a range of effects on male reproductive function depending upon the intensity and duration of the activity and the fitness of the individual. In general, it appears that relatively short, intense exercise increases serum testosterone levels, but there is debate to what degree haemoconcentration, decreased clearance and/or increased synthesis are involved. It is clear from the promptness of the testosterone increment that the mechanism does not involve gonadotrophin stimulation of the testes. There is suppression of serum testosterone levels during and subsequent to more prolonged exercise (and to some extent in the hours following intense short term exercise). Again the mechanisms are not clear: a variety of systems could influence the decrease of testosterone synthesis, including decreased gonadotrophin, increased cortisol, catecholamine or prolactin levels, or perhaps even an accumulation of metabolic waste materials. Endurance training induces changes in the function of the reproductive axis in men in a manner which appears similar to the changes in women. As in women, there is a subclinical inhibition of normal reproductive function but it is unclear whether clinical expression of reproductive suppression is common in men. The long term, physiological suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in men is probably not of major significance but it is clear that further investigation in several areas is essential to provide continuing reassurance that 'exercise is good for you'.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance
  • Reproduction*