Cycling and Erectile Dysfunction : Is there a link?

Cycling and erectile dysfunction…that doesn’t sound appealing, right? Usually, when we think about cycling, the words pleasure, health, effort, achievement or stunning scenery come to mind. However, you may have heard that cycling could cause problems down there…

So, let’s discover, once and for all, if cycling is dangerous for our erections.

Cycling and Erectile Dysfunction – The Myth

For a long time, it was believed that cycling more than 3 hours per week could cause erectile troubles.

Yet, a study from 2004 followed 5000 men and the results were not as dramatic as previously thought. The only possible caveat is a very light increase in the risk of prostate cancer (in men over 50), who cycle more than 4 hours per week. (1)

Be that as it may, this study doesn’t show a provable casual link between prostate cancer and cycling. Consequently, we shouldn’t over worry when it comes to that.

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Nonetheless, even if this study that used a substantial number of participants doesn’t show any provable link, between cycling and erectile dysfunction, it didn’t take into account…the pressure experienced by the perineum (the region between the anus and the testes) when riding on a saddle.

As a matter of fact, the pressure of the saddle can cause pains, tingling, insensibility and numb sexual organs.

Cycling and Erectile Dysfunction – The Reality

Therefore, cycling moderately (2 to 3 hours per week) shouldn’t have any real risk on our erectile function. Moreover, even if you push it further, there is little to no chances to damage your precious. But, like most things in life, it’s necessary to take a few precautions.

So, before getting back on the saddle, take into account the following advice to reduce/avoid any bothersome symptoms:
  • Choose a saddle that has a shorter “pointy bit” (I’m not much of a cyclist 😉 ) or one that has an aperture in the middle. This type of saddle can prevent the compression of the perineum and boost blood flow (and oxygen) towards it.
  • Use padded shorts to protect your sexual organs. Indeed, these kinds of models reduce the numbness experienced over long periods of cycling.
  • Avoid resting on your arms when you’re cycling. The added weight increases the pressure on your penis and testes. However, if you have to stretch your arms on your bike, consider investing in shorter handlebars or a bicycle with a shorter frame.
  • Get up from your saddle every 10 to 15 minutes to favour a good oxygen supply towards your pelvis – and to limit the pressure on the blood vessels that keep your best friend working properly. Also, by doing this, you will be able to boost your thrust on slopes or when there’s a dodgy driver…

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Cycling and Erectile Dysfunction – Risks Linked to Cycling

Regular cycling can cause prostatitis or the apparition of a lump (the infamous third testicle). Nothing dramatic here but once again, prevention is key. So, read the following carefully.

Prostatitis

Generally, prostatitis happens when the cyclist bends forward (and more so, when the saddle is thin and hard). To address the issue, there’s no other solution than your doctor. Usually, a prescription of anti-inflammatory medicine for a few days will deal with the problem.

Be careful, if you suspect a prostatitis, don’t wait or it could get worse!

Third Testicle

If you’re more than a once in a blue moon cyclist, you probably are familiar with the third testicle. This is the result of a thickening of the tissue surrounding the perineum. Nevertheless, this lump is not necessarily painful but it can become uncomfortable. If that’s the case, the only option to remove it, will be surgery.

In addition, it’s possible to develop an inflammation of one or more small sacs of synovial fluid: bursitis or hygroma. Usually, this lesion is observed in moderate to high-level cyclists.

So, should you see a red patch, that is painful to touch between your anus and testes, go to the doc ASAP.

Moreover, to diminish/avoid these problems, strengthen your perineum. Click here to know more.

Other Issues

In rarer circumstances, it’s possible to develop a traumatism of the perineum that can lead towards erectile dysfunction.

The first sign is having difficulties to urinate. Thus, if you struggle peeing after a good ride, mention it to your GP.

Indeed, any change of sensitivity of your penis, testes or a difficulty to urinate, needs a medical consultation to prevent things worsening. (2)

Cycling and Erectile Dysfunction – Conclusion

Is there a link between cycling and erectile dysfunction then? For now, there’s no conclusive evidence to support that cycling can cause ED.

Moreover, by taking some precautions, you can usually avoid most problems linked to cycling.

So, unless your doctor says otherwise, there’s no reason not to enjoy the benefits of cycling. But, if you want to practice more often, talk about it with your doc. Who knows…he could also have some interesting advice!


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(1) An Observational Study of Erectile Dysfunction, Infertility, and Prostate Cancer in Regular Cyclists: Cycling for Health UK Study. Hollingworth Milo, Harper Alice and Hamer Mark. Journal of Men’s Health. 2014.
(2) Does bicycling contribute to the risk of erectile dysfunction? Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS). Marceau L, Kleinman K, Goldstein I, McKinlay J. Int J Impot Res. 2001.

Vincent Lee