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The male reproductive system and endurance exercise


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 1996 - Volume 28 - Issue 2 - p 180-189
Clinical Studies: Clinical Review

During the last decade extensive research on the role of exercise upon the human reproductive system has been conducted. Primarily these investigations have focused on female subjects, but an increasing number of studies have examined male related issues. Evidence now suggests that men who participate in chronic endurance training display mild degrees of reproductive system abnormalities. The major abnormalities noted thus far are reduced resting levels of testosterone, altered pituitary release of luteinizing hormone and prolactin, and altered sperm characteristics. The purpose of this article is to briefly review the research literature on this topic and address select aspects of the impact of exercise upon the male reproductive system. The principal topics addressed in this article are acute and chronic exercise effects, consequences of hormonal changes associated with endurance training, and potential mechanisms for the reproductive system changes detected.

Applied Physiology Laboratory, Department of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Submitted for publication March 1995.

Accepted for publication August 1995.

This paper was presented as a Clinical Lecture at the 1994 American College of Sports Medicine national meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. The author wishes to thank Sarah and Zachary Hackney for their help in the preparation of this manuscript.

Address for correspondence: A. C. Hackney, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, CB# 8700-Fetzer Building, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

©1996The American College of Sports Medicine