As well as the environment, your heart, lungs, and muscles also reap the benefits of taking up cycling. The activity has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease, and increase fitness levels.
So, it’s no secret that cycling has incredible benefits when it comes to your health but is it causing you to change gears in the bedroom as well as in the saddle?
What does the research say about cycling and erectile dysfunction?
The link between cycling and erectile dysfunction (ED) has been hotly debated for a number of years. Aside from ED, concerns have also been raised about how the activity affects the bladder and fertility.
In 1997, a cross-sectional study found that cyclists were more likely to experience ED, numbness of the penis, and hand fatigue. A further scientific review found that cycling more than 3 hours a week was associated with moderate to severe ED. The review scrutinised a number of publications on cycling and ED, pairing cyclists with age-matched runners and swimmers. The results indicated that ED was far more common in cyclists than both runners and swimmers.
So, is it really causing problems in the bedroom?
A large study of male cyclists didn’t detect a link between cycling and ED, and previous studies have indicated that cycling only negatively impacts ED when you cycle for more than 3 hours per week. However, with mixed results and limitations in research methods (for example, the self-assessment of erectile dysfunction), it’s hard to say for sure.
Riding a bike puts pressure on your perineum (the area between your anus and genitals). A number of nerves and blood vessels run through this region and sustained pressure could potentially damage the pudendal nerve and artery. Studies have shown that pudendal nerve or artery entrapment may indeed be a factor in causing ED. Alternatively, perineum compression could lead to a reduction in oxygen pressure and blood flow around the penis, restricting the ability to get an erection.
How to reduce the risks associated with cycling and erectile dysfunction
With all the health benefits of cycling, ditching the saddle for a seat on the sofa is certainly inadvisable.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a vicious cycle when it comes to riding a bike and erectile dysfunction as there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the associated risks:
- Saddle: The widely popular protruding saddle nose is not so popular with your genitals. One of the easiest ways to avoid adverse health risks is to ditch the thin saddle for one with a larger surface area. You may want to consider changing to a gel saddle.
- Posture: A change in posture is a simple way to reduce pressure on your perineum. Lower your handlebars and regularly stand on the pedals to relieve the pressure.
- Bike type: A recumbent bike (seated bike) relieves the pressure on the perineum and should be considered if penis numbness is persistent after a bike ride.
- Intensity: Given research has indicated that the risks associated with cycling and ED are increased with the number of hours spent on your bike, you may want to consider alternating your exercise regime. Incorporating other forms of exercise such as running and swimming means the risks associated with cycling will decrease.
The bottom line
With limitations to research, it’s difficult to be sure exactly how much damage cycling is causing your erections. However, most research indicates that if you’re a regular cyclist, you may be damaging your perineum region, which might be a factor in causing your ED.
It’s important to remember that cycling has huge health benefits and you can take a few easy steps to reduce the risks associated with the sport, such as changing your saddle seat, posture, bike, or intensity of exercise. It’s generally agreed that cycling shouldn’t cause too much damage if you’re not at a particularly advanced level.
So, although cycling might not do too much harm to your sexual health, we can’t guarantee the same for wearing Lycra…