Physical activity and exercise are largely considered to be beneficial for men with erectile dysfunction.
In fact, compared to inactivity, engaging in physical activity for at least 160 minutes a week has been proven by research to help decrease erectile problems.
Doctors and urologists even encourage patients who’ve been lagging behind in physical activity to engage in physical activities like sports to treat erectile dysfunction in combination with medical therapies.
But, here’s the kicker. While moderate aerobic exercise is healthy, doing it incorrectly can exacerbate or even cause ED.
For biking, this is especially true. When you go out on a swim or run, your perineum (the area that surrounds the anus to the sex organs) doesn’t undergo as much strain as when you’re biking on a saddle seat.
The perineum is a region of the body that’s packed with various nerve endings and blood vessels. Getting an erection requires ample penile blood flow, which relies heavily on these blood vessels and nerves to do their job correctly.
So can bike riding cause erectile dysfunction? Let’s look at the research and association between cycling and erectile dysfunction.
Sexual Symptoms from Bike Riding
Sitting on a chair and on a biking seat is not the same.
When you sit on a chair, your weight is evenly distributed over your buttocks. But when you ride a bike, most of your weight is shifted to the area between the seat and handlebars. This can cause the perineum—the area between the anus and scrotum—to become numb.
In fact, genital numbness is one of the most prevalent symptoms among avid cyclists. One study claimed that about 50-91% of cyclists experience some form of genital numbness while riding. The same study also highlighted that 13-24% of riders experienced ED.
Other sexual dysfunction symptoms that have been reported include:
- Penile thrombosis
- Torsion of spermatic cord
What Does Research Say About Biking and ED?
While it’s still unclear whether biking can cause long-term damage to the erectile tissue, there is evidence that supports the temporary numbing effect of biking on the penis.
One study involving cyclists who participated in a 540km race found that among 20% of the participants who experienced penile numbing, about a third of them had persistent symptoms that lasted for more than a week.
Another research review supported the association between bike use and erectile dysfunction, stating that the compression sustained in the perineal region exacerbated vascular, endothelial, and neurogenic dysfunction—all of which may lead to ED.
Furthermore, one National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study that involved men who biked 5.5 hours every workday found that these men experienced genital numbness at least once. The men who rode more occasionally had a higher risk of developing ED, whereas those who rode the fastest experienced more severe symptoms.
However, there has also been some conflicting evidence as to whether or not bicycling can actually cause ED. While many studies suggest that there is a link between cycling and ED, some recent studies have found no significant connection between ED, infertility, and biking.
But it’s not quite over. A follow-up to the NIOSH study found that switching to a no-nose saddle had significantly reduced penile numbness symptoms in male cyclists compared to the traditional saddle.
These findings support the idea that changing one’s saddle shape can be enough to improve erectile function. While there are other causes for ED that can occur outside of cycling, switching saddles can help minimize its prevalence in a cycling context.
Saddle Modifications to Prevent ED
It’s important to know that there’s no one perfect saddle for every person, riding style, and situation.
That said, there are some general tips that cyclists can follow to minimize the chances of developing ED from bike riding. These include:
- Saddle Shape: No-nose and cutout bicycle saddle shapes reduce pressure and discomfort in the perineal region. Grooved saddles and partial cutouts also help male riders reduce discomfort.
- Saddle Inclination: Tilt your saddle bar slightly downward or at a flat level. Avoid tilting it up as that would increase perineum pressure.
- Height Position: Make sure it isn’t too high for each pedal stroke as that may increase perineal pressure.
- Padding: Shock-absorbent padding and medium padding are ideal. Also, get the correct saddle width to seat your two ischial tuberosities muscles for reduced compression.
- Accessories: Padded bike shorts may also help reduce the impact on the body when cycling.
When cycling, your riding position is just as vital as your gear and accessories. Try to reduce the forward-leaning position when you’re riding and try to maintain an upright posture instead.
Additionally, increase your handlebar height (optimally about an inch or two above the saddle seat). Be sure to take plenty of breaks as well when you’re out on a ride, especially when you’re feeling fatigued or if many hours have passed.
Clinical Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
While it’s tempting to blame ED symptoms on biking, ED can be caused by a variety of underlying health issues. Addressing the root cause of ED is the best way to find lasting relief.
For some men, making lifestyle changes may be enough to improve or prevent ED symptoms. Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and reducing stress can all provide health benefits, stimulate blood flow, and improve sexual function.
In other cases, medications or other treatments may be necessary. There are a variety of effective treatments for ED, including:
- Oral medications (although, be cautious of side effects)
- Acoustic wave therapy
- Vacuum devices
A men’s clinic can help you find the treatment plan that’s right for your unique situation.
Contact a Local Men’s Health Clinic for an ED Therapy Consultation
Biking is a great way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
However, some bad habits, such as riding in a suboptimal saddle, can be a one-way ticket to developing sexual symptoms. It’s important to choose an ideal bike seat to avoid unnecessary pressure on the perineum.
If you’re experiencing ED symptoms, talk to your doctor about treatment options. With the right care, you can enjoy a healthy sex life, regardless of how often you go bicycle riding.
Contact the team at Premier Men’s Medical Center in Orlando now to schedule an appointment to have a consultation with an experienced and specially trained medical staff. We are one of Central Florida’s leading men’s clinics providing ED therapy, PE therapy, Acoustic Wave therapy, hormone therapy, and much more.