Cycling is a popular mode of aerobic fitness that burns calories while strengthening leg muscles.
More than a third of Americans ride bikes. Some people sometimes cycle for fun, and others are more serious cyclists who spend hours a day riding a bike.
But people who have a penis and ride a bicycle can experience erection problems as an unintended consequence of spending too much time on a bicycle seat.
The link between conduct and erection problems is not new. In fact, the Greek physician Hippocrates identified sexual problems in male riders when he said: “The constant shaking of their horses makes them unsuitable for sex.”
Here’s why riding a bike can affect your ability to get an erection, and how to stop cycling from hampering your sex life.
When you sit on a bicycle for long periods of time, the seat puts pressure on your perineum, an area that extends between your anus and your penis. The perineum is filled with arteries and nerves that supply oxygen-rich blood and sensation to your penis.
In order for a man to have an erection, nerve impulses from the brain send arousal messages to the penis. These nerve signals allow blood vessels to relax, increasing blood flow through the arteries into the penis.
Any problem with the nerves, blood vessels, or both can prevent you from having an erection. This is called erectile dysfunction (ED).
In recent decades, researchers have found that some male cyclists develop damage to the pudendal nerve, the main nerve in the perineum, and the pudendal artery, which sends blood to the penis.
Men who spend long hours on a bicycle have reported numbness and difficulty getting an erection. Experts believe erectile dysfunction begins when arteries and nerves get caught between the bicycle’s narrow saddle and the rider’s pubic bones.
With a few modifications, you can still ride for exercise and fun without sacrificing your love life.
Here are some changes you can make to lower your risk of erectile dysfunction:
- Change your seat. Replace your narrow bike seat with something wider, with extra padding that supports your perineum. Also, choose a seat without a nose (it will be more rectangular in shape) to reduce the pressure.
- Lower the handlebars. Leaning forward will lift your back off the seat and relieve pressure on your perineum.
- Wear padded bike shorts. This will give you an extra layer of protection.
- Reduce the intensity of your workout. Cycle for fewer hours at a time.
- Take regular breaks on long journeys. Walk regularly or step on the pedals.
- Switch to a recumbent bike. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the bike, the incline is gentler on your perineum.
- Mix up your exercise routine. Instead of exclusively biking, alternate between jogging, swimming, and other forms of aerobic exercise. Make cycling part of a complete training program.
If you notice pain or numbness in the area between your rectum and scrotum, stop rolling for a while.
Although not usually permanent, erectile dysfunction and numbness from cycling can last for several weeks or months. The simple solution is to cut back on bike rides or stop riding altogether.
If several months have passed and you are still having trouble getting an erection, see your doctor or urologist. A medical condition such as heart disease, a nerve problem, or the residual effects of surgery may be other potential causes of your ED.
Depending on the cause of your problem, your doctor may prescribe one of the erectile dysfunction drugs that you may have seen advertised on TV, including:
These drugs increase blood flow to the penis to produce an erection. But consider them carefully – these drugs can have serious side effects.
Erectile dysfunction drugs are not recommended for those taking nitrates (nitroglycerin) for chest pain or for people with very low or high blood pressure, liver disease, or kidney disease . Other drugs are also available to treat erectile dysfunction, as well as non-drug options like penis pumps and implants.
Check out five herbs that can be used to help treat erectile dysfunction.
You don’t have to stop cycling if you have ED. Just make a few modifications to your vehicle.
If you do develop erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor about the cause of the problem and find the solution that will effectively and safely restore your sex life.