Last updated January 25, 2018 at 9:57 am
High intensity cyclists have overall better erectile function scores than those who take it easier.
The Tour Down Under is on and it’s not only the pros hitting the roads – amateurs are out on their bikes as well. But it’s not only the pedals which are getting a pushing.
Previously it was thought that cycling negatively affected erectile function, potentially as a result of prolonged pressure and micro-trauma while riding. However, some of the studies which backed this up didn’t use validated measures or comparison groups, and were limited by small sample sizes.
To find out whether or not it was really something to worry about, researchers from the University of California-San Francisco compared cyclists with swimmers and runners. Between the groups, they found that cyclists’ sexual and urinary health was comparable.
However, the cyclists did have a statistically higher risk of narrowing of the urethra.
Standing on the pedals reduces the odds of genital numbness.
Interestingly, and contrary to previous assumptions, high intensity cyclists (who ride more than 40 kilometres, at least three times a week) had overall better erectile function scores than low intensity cyclists.
The researchers found that for cyclists, standing on the pedals (for example while going up a hill) more than 20 per cent of the time significantly reduced the odds of genital numbness. The research also suggested that riders could also reduce genital numbness by increasing the height of their handlebars above the level of their saddle.
As an added bonus, doing this also reduced the chance of saddle sores.
The study compared 2,774 cyclists, 539 swimmers, and 789 runners, who were recruited through Facebook ads and sporting clubs.
The participants then filled out surveys which have been validated in previous research, including the Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM), International Prostate Symptom Score (I-PSS), and National Institutes of Health Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index (NIH-CPSI), as well as questions about urinary tract infections (UTIs), urethral strictures, genital numbness, and saddle sores.
There were also questions about their bike, route and style of riding.
“This is the largest comparative study to date, exploring the associations of cycling, bike and road characteristics with sexual and urinary function using validated questionnaires,” explained lead investigator Benjamin Breyer.
The researchers are still monitoring the participants to see if any further problems develop, according to Breyer.
“We’re looking more closely at those who reported numbness to see if this is a predictor for future problems.”
So despite some numbness and sores, hours in the saddle don’t seem to be causing health problems. With the proven benefits of a cardio workout, there’s now even less excuse not to get on your bike.
The research has been published in the Journal of Urology
Now, read about the science behind elite cyclists’ superhuman performance.