Exercise is good for us. Exercise is healthy. That’s what we are frequently told by health professionals and the media. So what should we make of counter arguments that suggest certain activities such as cycling may actually be damaging our health.

In this blog we take a closer look at the issue of erectile dysfunction among cyclists.

What is erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is the term given to the inability for a man to get and maintain an erection. A very common affliction, ED is thought to affect roughly half of men between the ages of forty and seventy.

Cycling and erectile dysfunction

The idea of cycling causing erectile dysfunction is one that has caught a lot of attention in recent years – perhaps largely due to the fact that the sport’s popularity has grown steadily in the UK, in line with British sporting success.

For a discipline with such fantastic cardiovascular benefits and a low impact on the joints and ligaments of the body it is frustrating for fitness fans to hear reports of research showing a correlation between the sport and something as concerning for men as erectile dysfunction (ED).

The theory behind cycling’s link to erectile dysfunction is based on the numbness and sometimes pain that is felt by cyclists after long hours in the saddle. This has led some to believe that the pressure created by the contact between perineum – the section between the scrotum and anus – and saddle is enough to compress the artery and vital nerves leading to the penis.

This compression is believed to be the cause of numbness and over time is thought to cause a more significant restriction of blood flow to the penis – so inhibiting erections.

In one Massachusetts study, it was found that the risk was highest among men who cycled for more than three hours a week. Although not irreversible, the research did find that erectile dysfunction was a particular problem amongst keen and regular cyclists.

The counter argument

According to another UK study carried out by University College London, however, no genuine connection was found between cycling and erectile dysfunction in analysis of nearly 5,300 male riders.

Although many of the male cyclists were found to suffer from erectile dysfunction, any correlation could be attributed to the age of the demographic (50+) and a number of other proven contributing factors.

It should also be put into context that one of the key causes of erectile dysfunction is lack of exercise. Failure to partake in cardiovascular exercise is also a major factor in heart disease, which is among the world’s biggest killers.

For this reason, there are few medical professionals who would deter cyclists from exercise due to any speculative and largely temporary threat of impotence. The pressure exerted on the arteries and nervous tissue is also dictated by the weight of the individual, meaning that frequent cyclists – who are by nature prone to burning calories and unlikely to be overweight – are at less risk than those who live a more sedentary lifestyle.

The facts

What we do know about erectile dysfunction is that 70% of cases are caused by diseases such as alcoholism, diabetes, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, vascular disease and neurological conditions.

Although impotence can be embarrassing and impact on self esteem in severe cases, there are several erectile dysfunction medications on the market capable of reversing the lack of blood flow to the penis – thus enabling a full and maintainable erection.

Categorized in:

Erectile Dysfunction,

Last Update: 23 March 2024