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Sperm Motility: What Does It Have to Do With Fertility?

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 04, 2022

Sperm Motility: What Does It Have to Do With Fertility?

Whenever people talk about male fertility, sperm count is usually a main focus. However, sperm motility also plays a role in determining a man’s fertility.

Read on to learn more about what sperm motility is, what factors affect it, and what you can do to improve it.

What is sperm motility?

Sperm motility refers to the sperm cell’s ability to move. This means that more motile sperm tends to be able to move around more compared to less motile sperm. In humans, 50% or higher motility is the norm.

However, it can also refer to what’s known as progressive motility or non-progressive motility. Progressive motility means that the cell is not only able to move, but it moves forward in a fairly straight line.

On the other hand, non-progressive motility means that while the cell is able to move, they don’t do so in straight lines. They tend to move all over the place, or even move in tight circles1.

Since the role of the sperm is to ‘swim’ inside the woman’s vagina and up into the fallopian tube to fertilize the egg, progressive motility is important. Sperm cells that exhibit non-progressive motility might not even be able to penetrate the outer layers of the egg cell. Those that exhibit progressive motility can move faster and thus are more able to get inside the egg cell to fertilize it.

What factors affect motility?

A number of factors can affect male fertility. Hypothalamus or pituitary gland problems are one possible reason. Diseases affecting the testicles can also be a reason for infertility. Age also plays a role as the older a man gets, their fertility tends to decrease as well2.

One study3 found that one factor that affected motility in particular is the pH level of semen. If the sperm is too acidic (5.2-6.2 pH), then it could affect motility. The researchers found that having semen that’s more basic, up to a pH level of 7.2-8.2, did not have any significant effect on motility.

Another study4 found that temperature also affected the motility of sperm. However, these only applied to sperm samples that will be put into storage.

In general, men shouldn’t be too worried about temperature affecting their sperm motility. This is because the body actually does a great job of keeping sperm at a viable temperature.

How can you increase sperm motility?

Increasing sperm motility, and sperm quality for that matter, depends on a number of factors. If the man’s sperm is affected by a disease or condition, then treating that disease or managing that condition should be the first order of business.

In addition, there are some ways that men can improve their sperm motility and quality:

Avoid certain foods

Certain types of foods have been found to decrease sperm quality in men. These include processed meats, foods that have trans fats, eating too much soy products, and high fat dairy.

It should be fine to eat these foods once in a while and in moderation. However, eating too much of these foods too often can cause sperm to decrease in quality. Not to mention, these foods can also cause you to gain weight and can be very unhealthy.

Have a healthier diet

Foods rich in antioxidants such as fish, fruits and vegetables, and walnuts were all found to improve sperm quality. Incidentally, these foods are also a part of a healthy diet, so these foods can also help improve your general health.


Lastly, it is very important to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. This helps keep the body strong and healthy, which can also contribute to improving sperm motility and quality.

By following these tips, men can ensure that their sperm quality remains good, or even improves.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 04, 2022

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