Erectile Dysfunction in Male Cyclists. Cycling and Impotence- Risk or Myth?
Could regular cycling lead to problems in the bedroom?
Cycling is a great sport to increase cardiovascular fitness as well as helping maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight management however could there be health risks involved to normally health males?
Too many hours sat on a bicycle saddle can lead to
- Erectile dysfunction. (Impotence)
Has Anyone Warned Your Cycling Can Give You Erectile Dysfunction?
In honesty- Has anyone you know told you cycling can lead to ED?
The warning signs for a male cyclist could be numbness or a tingling sensation.
Are you Feeling Numb? Tingling sensation downstairs after cycling?
The reason for the worry is that male bike riders place a large amount of pressure on their perineum while cycling. The perineum is the area between scrotum and anus and it contains a large number of arteries and capillary networks through which blood passes through to the penis when a man develops an erection.
How do you know if you're at risk of ED? (Erectile Dysfunction)
Many competitive cyclists spend over ten hours per week cycling including continuous rides of over two hours which can cause significant damage to the arteries and capillary networks of the perineum. A Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that the risk was highest among men who cycled for more than three hours a week- many competitive cyclists think nothing of a training ride or race of 3 hours or more!.
Are you sitting comfortably on your bike?
The good news- Erectile dysfunction from cycling is mainly temporary
While it may be consisdered a persuasive argument not to go cycling- Erectle Dysfunction from cycling is most likely to be permanent. The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks of erectile problems from perineal compression.
What can cyclists do to limit the risk of ED?
There are a number of things a bicycle rider can do to lower their risk of suffering from erectile problems
- Regularly pedal for short periods while stood out of the saddle. This reduces the pressure on the perineum and increases blood flow.
- Ensure your bike fits you correctly
- Consider choosing a saddle specifically designed to alleviate pressure on the sit bones
Stand up and pedal to avoid erectile dysfunction
Standing up and taking yourself off the saddle removes the compression pressure from the perineum. This takes pressure away from a man's crotch area and allows the blood to flow better around the arteries and capillaries. Many sources recommend a cyclist to stand up out of the saddle at least once every 15 minutes of cycling to improve circulation.
Correct bike fit to avoid bicycling related impotence
All cyclists need to ensure their bike fits them correctly Factors they need to consider are
- Frame Size
- Handlebar Height-Too low may add additional pressure due to a rolling forward motion in the saddle to adapt to the lower reach
- Saddle Height- Too high leads to a rocking motion on the perineum
- Saddle tilt- Saddle should be parallel to the ground or tilt minimally
- Saddle fore/ aft position
- Make and model of Bicycle Saddle (See below)
Bicycle Saddle Options for Men
Performance saddle for the bicycle racer with a cut out perineal section to remove compression.
Bicycle saddle options to avoid erectile dysfunction
It is believed that traditional bike saddles can reduce blood flow to a man's penis by up to 80% however most competitive cyclists (including professional riders) continue to use
There are a number of options that a male cyclist can try to limit the compression on their perineum.
1. A 'Flow' Type Saddle with a cut out perineal section
An anatomically designed saddle with a central open to remove pressure from the perineum
2. A no pressure Ergonomic saddle
These are a relatively new concept which negates the need for a bicycle saddle to need a nose section therefore removing the compression effect. These saddles have not yet made their way into the professional cycling peloton so the during has to still be out for their effect on cycling performance.
Is the relationship between cycling and ED a myth?
While most cyclists have experienced the numbness sensation many have referred to as 'numb-nuts' most admit that the effect subsides after around an hour
Many doctors also cite the long and short term benefits of cycling as outweighing the minute possibility of developing impotence as a result of cycling. The main causes of impotence are factors that are likely to affect a man's libido and are therefore psychological.
Risk factors for male impotence according to the National Health Service.
Lack of exercise or physical activity
Regular cycling is the complete opposite of this. It encourages physical activity and therefore encourages blood flow around the body.
Obesity/ the metabolic syndrome
Cycling tackles obesity by helping to burn off the spare tyre and helping keep the cyclist in good shape- no cyclist wants to push more weight up a steep hill! The metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors which include high blood pressure and obesity
By addressing their diet Cyclists are likely to have a reduced risk of having problems with high cholesterol.
Cyclists are likely to have a heightened sense regarding their health and therefore are likely to limit smoking or be non smokers.
Therefore cycling should have a truly positive effect.
I'll see you out there on your bike I hope.