Many men suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) due to lifestyle factors such as being overweight and leading a very inactive lifestyle.
Whilst there are a variety of different causes for erectile dysfunction, the number of times you exercise per week will likely have an impact.
Keep reading to find out how exercise can affect your ability to achieve and maintain erections, as well as which types can be beneficial and should be included in your weekly routine.
It has been widely established that upping your weekly exercise provides a wide range of benefits for your health and well-being, including:
Studies have shown that increasing your activity can also improve your erectile function.
One study taken on over 20,000 men aged between 40 and 75 explored how certain lifestyle factors affect impotence. The results showed that:
Whilst obesity and smoking increased rates of ED, physical exercises were shown to decrease cases of erectile dysfunction.
There isn’t a specific exercise routine or list of exercises that will combat erectile dysfunction. However, the following list outlines different types of exercises and why they are beneficial for erectile function.
Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, refers to any type of exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing.
When done on a regular basis, cardio leads to improved heart health and better circulation around the body. Your heart becomes stronger and better at pumping blood, which improves blood flow and blood pressure.
Erectile dysfunction happens when there is a lack of blood flow to the penis. Therefore, increasing your physical activity is likely to improve your ED by improving blood flow around the body and to the pelvic region.
Types of cardio include:
Men with a BMI of 30 or greater were 3 times more at risk for sexual dysfunction compared with the general population.
By losing weight with the help of cardiovascular exercise, you can decrease your risk of erectile dysfunction.
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Diabetes is also linked with ED and can be improved with more weekly exercise, as obesity is an underlying cause of this condition.
Resistance training, or lifting weights, is a popular form of exercise amongst both men and women. It involves training your muscles against resistance to increase their strength and size.
When men train with weights (especially during intense, heavy sessions), their testosterone levels rise.
Testosterone plays several important roles in the body, one of which is fuelling a man’s sex drive (libido) and sexual performance.
Therefore, increasing your testosterone levels with weight training is likely to benefit your sexual function.
Furthermore, training larger muscle groups will increase testosterone levels more. For example, you will get more testosterone by training your leg muscles compared with your arms, because they are bigger.
Some types of erectile dysfunction are psychological and can either be caused by or arise from mental health issues.
Yoga is a form of exercise which aims to achieve relaxation and reduce stress levels.
By eliminating some of the stress in your life, you may see an improvement in your erectile function - especially if your ED is psychological.
Kegels help to strengthen your pelvic floor and can be performed by both men and women.
Kegels can help men improve:
By strengthening the muscles in your pelvic floor (groin area), you are likely to gain more control of your erectile function. You may also improve your ejaculatory control, reducing your chances of premature ejaculation.
In order to perform kegels, you have to target the bulbocavernosus muscle which is located between the anus and genitals. This muscle has three functions:
Try to engage the muscles inside of your pelvis. You should feel a squeeze and a lift. Alternatively, stop the flow of your urine stream when it is mid-flow to try and locate the muscle.
When done correctly, the penis should slightly draw in and the testicles will lift.
To try and beat erectile dysfunction, start practising kegels every day. Aim to squeeze for 5 seconds at a time (though you can work your way up slowly if 5 seconds is too hard).
You don’t have to do kegels in a bridge position. If you find it comfortable, try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles when standing or sitting.
In almost every case, exercise has a positive impact on your body. However, some types of training and substances associated with exercise can negatively affect erectile function.
Whilst exercise has been shown to improve or even reverse erectile dysfunction, if you take things too far and start overtraining your body, you may suffer from some negative effects.
Overtraining can lead to:
Lacking sleep and having low energy could negatively impact your sexual function. Having a lower mood could also decrease your libido.
Remember to prioritise rest days during your training week to avoid any possible complications of overtraining.
It has been commonly considered that cycling can lead to impotence. However, this is not technically true.
The only way that cycling might cause ED is that sitting on a narrow bicycle seat for a long duration can lead to penis numbness and temporary erectile dysfunction.
However, you can avoid this rare phenomenon by trying the following:
If you start to feel a tingling sensation during your bike ride, this is a warning sign to take a break and increase the circulation in your pelvic region.
Whilst high-intensity running such as sprints and interval training can increase your testosterone levels, long-distance training can have the opposite effect.
During long runs, your body produces more cortisol (which is a stress hormone). Cortisol is thought to reduce how much testosterone you can make.
Lower testosterone could have a negative effect on your sex drive. However, all types of running are beneficial for your overall health and do not directly cause erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes, regular gym-goers turn to anabolic steroids to increase their muscle size and mass beyond what they are naturally capable of.
Misusing steroids in this way puts you at a range of health risks, many of which affect a man’s sexual health. Physical effects include:
Steroids are also addictive drugs, making your body feel dependent on them. If you are struggling to stop taking anabolic steroids, seek help from your GP or a healthcare professional.
If taking steroids can cause ED, then what about other gym supplements such as creatine?
Currently, there has been no evidence to support that creatine has any negative impacts on sexual function.
Creatine can be obtained organically through the foods we eat (typically red meat and fish). It is commonly taken in supplement form also, to help improve athletic performance.
Creatine can help increase body mass and repair damage caused by injuries. It is currently considered safe and effective when taken in the correct amounts.
Overall, staying active is likely to improve your circulation and reduce your chances of getting ED.
Because erections are caused by blood rushing to the penis, having a healthy heart that pumps blood quickly can help to increase blood flow to the pelvic region.
Weight lifting can also be beneficial due to increased testosterone levels, and training your pelvic floor muscles can improve your sexual control and performance too.
However, if you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction and exercise isn’t helping, some medical treatments can work instead.
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