There’s nothing better than the buzz you get after an intense session in the gym.
But exercise does more for you than simply fill you with a feeling of euphoria. It can also help you get stronger erections. We look at the science behind exercise and erections – and give you 3 types of exercises that will maintain and improve your erectile function.
1. Aerobic exercise and erectile dysfunction
Any exercise which increases your heart and breathing rate is known as aerobic exercise - so that includes many different types of exercise, from football, running and badminton to spinning, dancing and swimming.
High blood pressure can damage blood vessels, and this damage may lead to cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of erectile dysfunction.
If the lining of the blood vessels (known as the endothelium) becomes damaged and inflamed, this can also disrupt nitric oxide (NO) production.
NO is one of the key molecules involved in getting an erection. It works by dilating (widening) blood vessels in the penis, allowing more blood to flow into it, which is how an erection takes place. Anything that disrupts its production is bad news for strong erections.
But studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve both endothelial function and NO production. This, by contrast, is great news for strong erections. And it gets better.
Exercise also has a whole host of other benefits for your cardiovascular system - and therefore your erections. These include:
- Reduction of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) levels in the blood, as well as the total level of cholesterol
- Reduction in body weight (obesity is associated with cardiovascular disease)
- Increase in insulin sensitivity (exercise increases the body’s ability to control glucose levels in the blood)
- Increase in “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins)
To see an improvement in erectile dysfunction, one research paper recommended that those experiencing ED engage in aerobic exercise “of moderate to vigorous intensity 4 times per week for 40 minutes”.
They reported that 160 minutes of exercise a week for 6 months “contributes to a decrease of ED” for men experiencing ED due to physical inactivity, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
2. Resistance training and erectile dysfunction
When resistance training was combined with aerobic exercise in a series of trials, men who responded positively to the physical exercise regimen experienced a 15% improvement in erectile function.
Other benefits of resistance training for cardiovascular health include:
- Weight loss (calories are burned as a result of increases in lean body mass and basal metabolism)
- Prevention and management of diabetes (which is associated with ED)
3. Pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegels)
The third and final exercise which may be of benefit if you have erectile dysfunction is pelvic floor exercise (Kegels).
Kegels can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, bowel, and may have an impact on sexual function.
A small study has shown that Kegels might be an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Unlike some aerobic and resistance exercises – which can be quite difficult if you’re not used to physical exercise – Kegels are easy. In fact, you can do them right now as you read this article.
Here’s how to do them:
1. Identify the pelvic floor muscles: To find the pelvic floor muscles, you can either stop urination midstream or squeeze the muscles that stop you from passing gas.
2. Strengthen the pelvic floor muscles: Once you have located your pelvic floor muscles, try squeezing them for three seconds, then relax for three seconds. Try it in your seat now.
To properly strengthen them, leading academic medical centre Mayo Clinic recommends doing three sets of 10 repetitions daily.
When you do your Kegels, try not to contract the muscles in your pelvis or thighs. The goal is to focus your attention on contracting the pelvic floor muscles.
The bottom line
Exercise is an essential part of maintaining erectile health. It protects against cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of ED, and has a myriad of other benefits such as reducing body weight, managing blood glucose levels, and reducing “bad” cholesterol.