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Cycling is an aerobic exercise that helps us to burn calories while strengthening leg muscles. Even though many other benefits are well known, a hidden threat, which may cause health issues, is lurking behind the sporty façade.

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While some people use bikes for commuting, others take it more seriously. According to several studies, men riding bicycles may have erectile problems as an unintended consequence of spending too much time in the seat.

The connection between riding and erection problems was discovered centuries ago. The Greek physician Hippocrates identified the sexual problem in men riding horses. He said: “Long-term bumping on horseback might make men unfit for sexual intercourse.”

Man cycling
What is the connection between cycling and erectile dysfunction? © Profimedia

Here’s why cycling can affect your ability to achieve an erection and how to prevent cycling from negatively affecting your sexual health.

When you sit on the bike for a long time, the seat develops pressure on your perineum, which is the area that runs between the rectum and scrotum. The perineum has a network of nerves and arteries that supply the penis with oxygen-rich blood.

If a man is about to have an erection, nerve impulses from the brain send excitement to the penis. These nerve signals allow blood vessels to relax and increase blood flow through the arteries to the penis. Any problem with these nerves, blood vessels or both may well lead to the incapability to have a sufficient erection or any erection at all. That disorder is called erectile dysfunction (ED).

The type of a bike saddle matters. © Profimedia

Men who spend many hours on a bike reported numbness and difficulty getting an erection. Experts believe that ED begins when arteries and nerves are suppressed between the narrow seat of the bike and the rider’s pubic bones.

Does it mean all the male cyclists face the risk of experiencing ED sooner or later? Luckily, some other studies unveiled, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. The Journal of Men’s Health launched an observation that ran over several months. The researchers studied 5,300 male cyclists and examined if they had experienced symptoms of ED, or been diagnosed with infertility in the five past years. The conclusion revealed no direct connection between intensive cycling and ED or infertility. Even though some studies warn us while others calm us down, every cyclist can experience different impacts of cycling. That is why experts recommend a certain degree of awareness, mainly if numbness appears after several hours spent in the saddle.

Cyclist rear view
You can lower the risk of erectile dysfunction. © Profimedia

How to reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction when you are an avid cyclist? With a few adjustments, you can still ride without putting your sexual health in danger or sacrificing your love life. There are a few suggested changes you can make to reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction.

  • Replace your narrow bike seat with a wider one provided with extra padding to support your perineum.
  • Lower the handlebars. Tilting forward lifts the rear part of your body from the seat and relieves pressure on the perineum.
  • Wear padded cycling shorts to get an extra layer of protection.
  • Limit the training intensity according to the current sensations of your body.
  • Take regular breaks during long journeys. Switch sitting with pedalling while standing regularly.
  • Add another kind of exercise. Switch between jogging, swimming and other forms of aerobic exercise between your regular cycling legs.
  • If you notice developing pain or numbness in the area between the rectum and scrotum, quit cycling for a while and observe any changes. Should the discomfort remain, go see your urologist to exclude the onset of a health issue.