Cycling And Male Sexual Health
Bicycling (or bike riding) is a well-known sports as well as workout activity that is equally popular in both males and females, but are you aware that careless cycling can also compromise your sexual health?
According to a new study reported in the Journal of Urology (1), investigators reported that the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in bike riders is 17%, based on the data collected from 688 individuals (age range 17 to 77 years).
What Are Some Of The Side Effects Of Careless Cycling?
According to a new survey, more than one-third of the entire US population rides bike. Based on the results of several clinical studies, experts conclude that cycling can exert following adverse effects on the male sexual health:
- Bicycling can lead to compression of nerves and blood vessels that support genitals; thereby aggravating the risk of erectile dysfunction in men.
- Long hours of cycling can cause genital numbness, which may also interferes with sexual stimulation.
- In some cases, the walls of the blood vessels may become rigid; which may restrict the capacity of these vessels to hold/ transport the blood.
- Various research studies suggested that log hours of cycling leads to pudendal nerve damage (as well as damage to pudendal vessels).
What Are Some Factors That May Aggravate The Risk Of Sexual Dysfunction In Bike Riders?
While cycling is a good workout, it serves several other benefits as well such as; transportation in busy cosmopolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles (where parking is expensive and impossible to find). So instead of abandoning this activity altogether, you can take a few precautions to minimize the risk of genital injury/ damage. A few important ones are:
- According to a new study conducted by Yale scientists, it was observed that genital numbness is almost inevitable if the handlebars of bicycles are very low.
- The shape of saddle or seat also plays a major role in redistributing the weight of the body. Some saddles are designed in a way that the biker is forced to put his entire body weight on the perineum (the delicate tissue present between the anus and scrotum). The perineum also protects and nurtures the rich network of nerves and blood vessels that are required for healthy sexual functions.
- Saddles with ‘nose’ limits the distribution of weight on your buttocks and increase the pressure on your perineum. Therefore, opt for no-nose saddles (or rectangular shaped) to limit the impact on perineum.
What Can You Do To Minimize The Risk Of Adverse Effects?
Experts recommend following helpful tips (2):
- Take frequent breaks while cycling to avoid persistent pressure and/or numbness to the genitals. You can walk, stretch or paddle in the standing position to limit the intensity of pressure on the genital region.
- Speak to a primary care provider if you are experiencing recurrent bouts of numbness or altered sensations in your genitals (or perineal region).
- Speak to an expert before you purchase your bike. Experts can recommend you bikes based on your weight, height, posture and other relevant factors. The expert can also adjust your seat, handles and other pieces of bike according to your posture and style. You should also try different saddles and bikes to assess your comfort level before making the final purchase.
- Maintain optimal posture while riding a bike i.e. sit upright. Individuals who ride a bike in a forward leaning position are more likely to develop perineal damage as a result of direct impact of body weight.
- Avoid spending a lot of time on your bike, especially on hot summer days.
- Avoid narrow bike seats, instead opt for wider padded bicycle seats to support your perineal region.
- Wear proper gear while riding a bike (i.e. specialized shorts) to add an added layer of comfort or padding. Avoid wearing tight fitted jeans while riding the bike to maintain friction-free movements.
In most cases, erectile dysfunction or genital numbness caused by excessive cycling is transient and responds very well to lifestyle modification (such as cutting back on cycling). If symptoms persists, you can speak to a doctor to learn more about effective solutions such as phosphodiesterase inhibitors.
1. Taylor, J. A., Kao, T. C., Albertsen, P. C., & Shabsigh, R. (2004). Bicycle riding and its relationship to the development of erectile dysfunction. The Journal of urology, 172(3), 1028-1031.
2. Glina, S., Sharlip, I. D., & Hellstrom, W. J. (2013). Modifying risk factors to prevent and treat erectile dysfunction. The journal of sexual medicine, 10(1), 115-119.
3. Michiels, M., & Van der Aa, F. (2015). Bicycle riding and the bedroom: can riding a bicycle cause erectile dysfunction?. Urology, 85(4), 725-730.
4. Hollingworth, M., Harper, A., & Hamer, M. (2014). An observational study of erectile dysfunction, infertility, and prostate cancer in regular cyclists: cycling for health UK study. Journal of Men’s Health, 11(2), 75-79.