Cycling is a popular aerobic exercise style, which burns calories while strengthening muscles in the legs. According to a survey by Breakaway Research Company, more than one-third of Americans ride a bike. Some people only cycle for fun, and some are more serious riders who spend hours a day on a motorbike.
Men who are riding a bike can experience erection problems as an unintended result of spending too much time on a bike seat. The link between riding problems and erection issues is not fresh. In fact, in male horseback riders, the Greek physician Hippocrates described sexual problems when he said, “The constant jolting on their horses unfits them for intercourse”
Here’s why riding a bike will impact your ability to obtain an erection and how to stop putting the brakes on your sex life by biking.
How does cycling affect erections?
For long periods of time, when you sit on a bike, the saddle puts pressure on your perineum, a region that lies between your anus and penis. The perineum is packed with the arteries and nerves that provide the penis with oxygen-rich blood and sensation.
Nerve impulses from the brain send out pleasure instructions to the penis for a man to have an erection. These nerve signals enable relaxation of the blood vessels, increasing the blood flow through the arteries into the penis. Any nerve tissues, blood vessels or both will render you unable to get an erection. This is known as erectile dysfunction.
Researchers have found over the last few decades that some male cyclists are causing damage to the pudendal nerve, the perineum’s main nerve, and the pudendal artery that carries blood to the penis.
Men who spend hours on a bike reported numbness and trouble having an erection. Experts agree that ED begins when the narrow bicycle seat and the pubic bones of the rider get trapped between the arteries and nerves.
How to reduce your risk of ED
You can still ride for exercise and fun with a few changes, without sacrificing your love life.
Here are a few improvements you can make to a chance of developing ED:
- Switch out your narrow bicycle seat with extra padding that protects your perineum for something wider. To lower the pressure, choose a seat without a nose (it will have more of a rectangular shape).
- Lower the throttle. Leaning forward raises your backside off the seat and relieves your perineum strain.
- To get an extra layer of safety wears insulated cycling shorts.
- Cut down on strength of the exercise. Run at a time, for fewer hours.
- Take daily breaks on long treks. Move around, or stand occasionally on the pedals.
- Switch to a recumbent bike. If you’re going to spend a lot of time on a bicycle, on your perineum, reclining is gentler.
- Mix your workout routine. Instead of just walking, turn from jogging, swimming, and other types of aerobic exercise. Make cycling a part of a full fitness program.
Stop riding for a while if you feel any discomfort or numbness in the area between your rectum and scrotum.
What to do if you have ED
Even though it is not normally permanent, cycling-induced ED and numbness can last for several weeks or months. The simple answer is to cut back on bike rides or just stop cycling. If you are going through several months and you have trouble having an erection, see your primary care physician or urologist. Other possible causes of your ED may be a medical condition such as heart disease, a nerve disorder, or the residual effects of surgery.
Depending on the cause of your problem, your doctor might recommend one of the prescribed ED medications you might have seen on TV including:
To produce an erection these drugs increase the blood flow to the penis. But carefully research them, since these drugs can have significant side effects. For those taking nitrates (nitroglycerin) for chest pain and those with extremely low or high blood pressure, liver disease, or kidney disease, ED medications are not recommended. Other drugs, as well as non-drug alternatives like penis pumps and implants, are also available for treating EDs.
You needn’t give up on cycling. Just make a couple of modifications to your ride. If you are developing ED, speak to your doctor about what causes the problem, and find the cure that will restore your sex life safely and effectively.