Cycling can be a great way to workout. It’s something you can do in any kind of weather and it’s fun for people of all ages. However, there are some risks that this type of exercise can produce, particularly for men. Many studies have found that men who ride a bicycle often may have an increased risk for developing erectile dysfunction. Read this article to learn more about the connection between cycling and erectile dysfunction.
Factors that Affect the Risk of ED
Thanks to the advent of drugs like Viagra, more people than ever before are aware of what erectile dysfunction (ED) is and how it can be treated. Despite the fact that today's society has become more comfortable discussing ED, many experts are looking for ways that men can actively prevent this condition from developing. Surprisingly, research has shown again and again that cycling may have a direct link to ED. However, these results have shown that certain factors about an individual’s cycling habits can affect whether their risk for ED is increased or not. The factors found to be linked with an increased risk of ED include:
- Seating: The weight that is placed on certain body parts while cycling affects whether a man’s risk of ED is escalated. When people sit down, their weight is distributed onto the ischial tuberosities, which are sometimes called the “sit bones.” The ischial tuberosities are not connected to any organs, nerves or arteries, which allows them to support the body’s weight while in the sitting position. When a man uses a bicycle seat that isn’t wide enough to support the ischial tuberosities, they inadvertently place some of their weight onto the internal part of their genitals. Since the penis actually extends inside the body all the way back to the anus, this can weaken that part of the body and affect a man’s ability to keep an erection.
- Positioning: The forward-leaning straddle position that many cyclists assume can also lead to problems with ED. When a person sits in this straddle position, they divert their weight away from the ischial tuberosities, which is meant to support the sitting position, to the ischiopubic rami, which are bones that connect the ischial tuberosities to the pubic bone. Unlike the ischial tuberosities, this area contains many important nerves, arteries and tissue as well as the urethra. Putting pressure on the ischiopubic rami can result in numbness in the penile and scrotal area after cycling. Additionally, it can lead to atherosclerosis in the genital area, which can result in ED.
- Length of time: Most studies on the relationship between ED and cycling have made a clear distinction between occasional riders and those who spend significant amounts of time on a bike. As expected, people who ride a bike for long periods of time on a regular basis are much more likely to develop ED than those who only ride occasionally or for short periods of time.
Weighing Risks Vs. Benefits
Despite the results of their research, many of the experts behind these studies don’t want to discourage men from cycling altogether. Aside from the increased risk of ED for some men, cycling can have wonderful health benefits. Cycling is something that can be enjoyed year-round thanks to stationary bikes, and those who ride their own bike find it can be very inexpensive since little equipment is involved. Additionally, it’s something that generally comes easily to people of any age, and it can be a less intimidating way for couch potatoes to get started working out when compared to other options like running or joining a gym. Finally, it can be a fun and relaxing activity that encourages people to work out more often. As we know from countless other studies, regular exercise is always a good thing for the human body, increasing cardiovascular health and reducing the risk for conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Because of all these great aspects and benefits of cycling, it’s important for men to weigh the risks against the benefits before starting a regular cycling routine. If they cycle often enough to receive these health benefits without putting their sexual health at risk, then cycling can be a great exercise option for many men. Additionally, they can try the tips in the following section for safe cycling to avoid increasing the risk of ED.
Tips for Avoiding ED from Cycling
There are several ways you can still cycle while avoiding a risk for ED, including:
- Cut back on the length of time you cycle. In one study, men who cycled less than 3 hours a week had an odds ratio of developing ED of only 0.61, while those who cycled at least 3 hours per week had an odds ratio of 1.72 (1.5 is considered a health risk). Simply supplement some of your workout time with other exercises rather than limiting yourself to cycling exercise.
- Find a wide seat that supports your full weight when sitting. Saddles that do not have the long, narrow nose found on many bike seats are the best for avoiding an increased risk of ED.
- Position your handle bars so that you are sitting back firmly on the seat. Not leaning forward will help reduce or eliminate the pressure on your ischiopubic rami.