If cycling has emerged as a key activity that acts as a stress buster, allows you to lose weight, keeps your body shaped & flexible & also add to your adventure spirit, there are various things associated with it too, which majorly include doubts & confusions on its status of continuing further or not. One such doubt is a serious one involving all the men out there & a very important one to discuss upon as well – can cycling cause erectile disfunction?
Cycling – the new way for fitness & fun
To be fit and healthy one needs to be physically active. Regular physical activity helps in protection from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness (depression, anxiety, etc), diabetes & arthritis. Riding a bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle & also, it allows you to take off & explore things around you.
The best part about it is not just its healthy, low-impact exercise nature but also its feature of allowing people of all ages, from young children to older adults to enjoy it to their will. It is also cheap (basic ones at least) & good for the environment.
An estimated one billion people ride bicycles every day for transport, recreation & sport. This speaks volumes about the popularity & impact of cycling on people in the modern world. Right from the the second decade of the 19th century, cycling has emerged as a good means of transportation with various changes & modifications. As opposed to a time where cycles could be used to cover short distance, we now have cycles that can ride on snow, sand, roads, hills & all types of surfaces.
How does Cycling influence erections?
It is indeed a question that needs serious attention when we talk about the influences of cycling. We know various positive sides of it but, when it comes to the negative side, there is a lot more than what one would expect. As a major con, opposed to the usual list of benefits, cycling can actually affect your intimate life with your partner in a very negative way. Yes,cycling causes Erectile Dysfunction & it is absolutely true. But that doesn’t mean that men should quit cycling right now on. Every plane that flies doesn’t crash. Of course, there should be reasons behind things for them to happen. Let’s see what the actual truth & explanation for this here.
Greek physician Hippocrates was quick to point out sexual issues in male horseback riders when he said, “The constant jolting on their horses unfits men for intercourse” which shows us that the link between riding & erection problems isn’t new. Men who bike can experience erection issues as a result of spending too much time on a bike seat. When somebody sits on a bike for long periods of time, the seat puts pressure on the ‘perineum’. It is the area that runs between the anus & the penis. The perineum is a home to arteries & nerves in plenty that supply oxygen-rich blood & sensation to the male genitalia.
The entire process of erection starts from the nerve impulses from the brain when it sends arousal messages to the penis. These nerve signals make the blood vessels relaxed which makes way for an increased blood flow through the arteries into the penis. When this extensively high amount of blood flows through the penis, erection state is achieved. Any problem with these nerves or blood vessels, or both can lead to inability to have an erection. This condition is defined as erectile dysfunction (ED).
Researchers have worked really hard over the last few decades & have concluded on their research & discoveries that some male cyclists develop damage to the pudendal nerve which is the main nerve in the perineum & the pudendal artery. The pudendal artery is the one which which sends blood to the penis. Men who spend many hours on a bike have reported numbness & trouble in achieving an erection. Experts are of the view that ED begins when our arteries & nerves get pressed against each-other as a result of pressing between the narrow bicycle seat & the rider’s pubic bones. Let’s see some of the studies which make things more believable-
Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health(NIOSH) studied 17 members of a bicycling police patrol unit in Ohio. 5½ hours in the saddle each workday was the most common work duration for these men. The study showed that almost all of them experienced genital numbness at varying times. Those who rode the most were at the highest risk for erectile dysfunction while the men who exerted the most pressure on their bike seats had the most problems. In a follow-up study, the same researchers found that bike-riding patrol officers with no-nose saddles on the bikes reported far less penile numbness than those who used a standard saddle.
A team from NIOSH also looked at bike riding & sexual status in women who rode for an average of two hours many days a week. Quite similar to the result of men, the women experienced decreased genital sensation. A later study revealed that narrow seats & cut-out seats increased pressure on their perineum too causing issues in genital sensation.
The Gravity of the Problem & Precautions
The problem is of course a serious one which can cause unwanted issues in the life of people. But, despite being a serious issue, there’s a reason to be happy as ED is actually curable. Thus, it isn’t a problem which is going to disrupt your sex life just like that. Although the time period for it depends on various factors & varies from person to person given the seriousness of the situation, the problem is something which can be dealt with. All that’s needed is a bit of patience & belief since such problems get on the nerves & affect the daily routine of people as well their behaviour. So, if you have been suffering from this problem due to cycling, you can now breathe a sigh of relief.
The various precautions have been listed below which can help you lead a normal life post cycling & are as below:
- Narrow bicycle seat with wider size & extra padding should be chosen which supports the perineum. A seat without a nose is advisable as that way, greater contact of the seat with the pelvic region is achieved thereby distributing the pressure evenly.
- If you can lower the handlebars, please do so. This is because leaning forward will lift the backside off the seat & relieve pressure on the perineum. Thus, there will be lesser chances of the perineal nerves & arteries succumbing to pressure.
- Padded bike shorts are a good idea to get an extra layer of protection as they are designed for long hours in the saddle.
- Cut back on your training intensity, especially, in case you’re somebody who cycles for longer hours.
- If you still are somebody who goes on long dates with his bike then please date recumbent bikes as pressure will be gentler on the perineum in that case.
- In case you think of tilting your seat upward, drop the thought. That way, you’re thinking about getting a position that increases pressure on the perineum.
- Proper bike fit is important here as well. Keep your seat at the correct height, so that the legs aren’t completely extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke.
- Taking short breaks on long rides by getting off the bike is essential in order to offer some relaxation to the perineal region.
- Mixing up the exercise routine with jogging, swimming, cycling & other forms of aerobic exercise will be a good way out. It will also turn out to be an all-round workout program.
As said earlier, ED isn’t permanent. However, ED & numbness caused by cycling can last for several weeks or months. A not so difficult solution will be to cut down the bike ride hours or simply quitting it for sometime entirely. If there’s no relief & problem of ED lasts even after months, doctor’s intervention is advised. Not just cycling, heart disease, nerve problem, or the residual effects of a surgery be contributing factors of ED.
Depending on the cause of the problem, the doctor might prescribe one of the ED drugs like:
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- vardenafil (Levitra)
These drugs increase blood flow to the penis to produce an erection when needed. But, since they are artificial stuff, resort to them only under utter caution as these come loaded with side effects. As a precautionary note, ED drugs are not advisable for those who take nitrates (nitroglycerin) for chest pain & those who are affected with very low or high blood pressure, liver disease or kidney disease. Other medicines are also available to treat ED, as well as non-drug options like penis pumps & implants which can help you get going when needed..