Cycling is no doubt one of the more popular aerobic exercises in the world, but could it also be the culprit behind your performance issues in bed? In this article, we discuss the link between cycling and erectile dysfunction, as well as introduce certain cycling tips to lower your risk of getting erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction refers to the inability to get and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.
There are currently many causes of ED, which includes both emotional and physical conditions. Some common causes include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression and even stress. However, there are also other lesser known causes of ED, one of which could be excessive cycling.
Studies done across the years have suggested that there is a link between cycling and ED. While more research is needed, there is an observed correlation between the amount (duration) of cycling and the rates of ED.
A large reason why cycling could cause ED in the long run is due to the pudendal nerve entrapment syndrome, whereby sitting for prolonged periods on the saddle can lead to genital numbness.
Why does that happen?
Well, sitting on your bike for long periods places huge pressure on your perineum, the area between your anus and penis. The perineum is packed with blood vessels and nerves that supply oxygen-rich blood and sensation to your penis.
During normal erections, the nerve impulses in your brain sends signals to your penis upon sexual arousal. These signals allow the blood vessels in your penis to relax, increasing blood flow through the arteries into the penis, which causes an erection.
Long-term cycling and sitting on the saddle causes damage to the pudendal nerve and pudendal artery, thereby restricting blood flow to the penis. Overtime, this could lead to genital numbness and eventually ED.
There are currently studies that agree with this claim. According to a 1997 Norwegian study on 160 men who participated in a long-distance bike tour, it was found that 1 in 5 suffered from genitalia numbness for up to a week after the tour, and 13% developed ED that lasted for over a week.
While pudendal nerve entrapment syndrome can affect cyclists of all ages, there are other additional risk factors that can increase your chances of ED.
• Having a cycling history of over 10 years
• Being over 50 years of age
• Being overweight or obese
• Cycling for over 10 hours per week
With all the evidence on how cycling decreases bedroom performance, does this mean that you should stop cycling altogether?
While there is indeed a link between cycling and ED, this should not deter you from cycling altogether! As long as it’s done in moderation, cycling is actually more beneficial than harmful for your health in the long run.
After all, cycling is a great way to get fit and healthy. More common causes of ED include poor physical health and being overweight. As such, since cycling is a form of cardiovascular fitness, it can actually help to improve erectile function!
To continue reaping the benefits of cycling while reducing the risk of developing ED, here are some bike modifications and tips to include in your cycling routine!
Generally speaking, a wider saddle is better as it is less compressive. A seat with a nose length of no more than 6 cm is also preferred. If you’re always travelling on bumpy roads, it’s good to have either a gel-filled seat or a well-paddled saddle to absorb the impact of the ride.
Research has also shown that noseless saddles are exceptionally good at preventing significant blood loss to the penis after long hours of riding. That said, if noseless designs are not your thing, switching from a racing saddle to a central cutout or a saddle with a downwardly curved nose can do wonders in the long run.
According to a 2004 study in The Journal of Urology, a handlebar height that’s parallel with or higher than the saddle increases your risk of developing ED compared to handlebars with heights lower than the saddle height.
How so? Having a proper handlebar and saddle height helps prevent you from placing too much pressure on your perineum, thereby lowering your chances of developing ED in the long run.
Compared to the conventional bicycle, a recumbent bike (which places the rider in a laid-back reclining position) is better in the long run. This is because recumbent bikes are gentler on your perineum and do not restrict as much oxygen supply to the penis compared to conventional bikes.
If you’re also suffering from regular back and neck pain due to cycling, maybe it’s time to consider switching out your current conventional bicycle for a recumbent one!
Breaks are extremely important, especially if you’re going on a long ride. If possible, take a break every 30 minutes, either by walking around or standing on the pedals. This helps to reduce your chances of experiencing genital numbness and ED.
Padded bike shorts are great as they provide an additional layer of protection between your penis and the saddle.
While cycling is a great way to burn calories, build endurance and improve overall fitness, it is not the only option! There are many other aerobic exercises that can do just as much, such as jogging, swimming or hiking.
If possible, incorporate other forms of exercise into your routine, rather than just cycling exclusively!
At the end of the day, it’s important to always listen to your body and take breaks whenever possible. If you start noticing any numbness or pain in the area between your rectum and scrotum, it’s best to stop cycling and rest for roughly 1-2 weeks.
While uncommon, numbness in your genital area and ED due to cycling can last for up to several weeks or months. That said, if your symptoms persist or get more serious, it’s advised that you speak to a doctor or licensed professional.
In the event that you have ED due to cycling, we suggest that you likewise seek professional medical help. There are currently many ED medications on the market, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra).
These ED medications work by enhancing the effects of nitric oxide, which helps to relax the muscles in the penis. As such, more blood can flow into the penis when sexually aroused, allowing you to get an erection.
Here at Noah, we have a dedicated team of doctors who on our platform will be able to determine the root cause of your ED and if found suitable, prescribe you the medication you need.
Articles featured on Noah are for informational purposes only and should not be constituted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. If you're looking for a healthcare provider, click here.