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Frequent Trips to the Sauna May Lower Men's Sperm Counts

Update Date: Mar 25, 2013 01:04 PM EDT

The sauna may seem like a good idea after a strenuous workout at the gym, but new research suggests that men may just be better off with a cool-down exercise. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Padova in Italy has found that trips to the sauna may lower sperm counts for months at a time.

According to MyHealthNewsDaily, the study was conducted using 10 Finnish men as participants. All of the men were healthy, in their thirties and had normal sperm counts before the start of the study. They were tasked with visiting the sauna twice a week for three months. After the three months ended, the men stopped visiting the sauna. When researchers measured their sperm counts, they found that they were low - and remained low for up to six months after the sauna visits.

Researchers found that exposure to the sauna also changed the way that DNA appeared in sperm cells. The heat also affected the mitochondria. As a result, the production of sperm was much less efficient when the men were exposed to the sauna.

The study did not conduct any research on the fertility of the men. Since sperm count can be independent of how fertile a man is, sauna visits should not be used as a method of birth control.

The study's findings were unsurprising to some researchers. That is because heat negatively impacts sperm counts. In fact, the reason that testicles hang down from the body is to keep the production center cool, which is why men with undescended testicles have lower sperm counts. Indeed, the sauna elevated the temperature of the men's scrota by three degrees Celsius.

Previous studies have found that other methods of transferring heat - like sitting for long periods with a laptop on your lap or the frequent use of hot tubs - have been associated with lower sperm counts.

However, researchers do not suggest that men let these findings prevent them from visiting the sauna. The sample size was extremely small, and more research would need to be conducted in order to determine the sauna's effect on men whose fertility is already impaired or on boys who have not yet gone through puberty.

The study was published in the journal Human Reproduction.

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