Cycling Won’t Put Your Sexual Health at Risk
Everyone knows riding a bicycle is a great overall workout. It offers excellent cardiovascular benefits, strengthens the muscles of your legs, and is low impact enough that you won’t develop joint pain. And hey, during May we celebrated National Bike Month. The one worry that many people have about cycling—and who hasn’t heard these rumors—is that sitting on a bike seat for prolonged periods of time could potentially be harmful to sexual or urinary tract functions. But don’t let that stop you if cycling is an activity you enjoy because new research suggests that these fears may be misguided.
The study, which was conducted at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, found that regular cycling is not associated with sexual dysfunction or urinary health issues.1 Concerns have arisen about the possibility of problems caused by putting pressure on the groin area due to sitting on a bike seat for extended periods. It can result in pain and numbness around the region for both men and women, leading to the suspicion that cycling might contribute to problems such as erectile dysfunction.
To determine whether this is the case, the investigators provided close to 4,000 men around the world who belonged to a sports club with health-related questionnaires. They covered topics including what their primary forms of exercise were, whether they had experienced any prostate symptoms, and about their general sexual health. Nearly two-thirds of the subjects indicated that they were cyclists who did not run or swim for workouts, and 37 percent either swam or ran regularly, but did not bike.
While those who cycled tended to have higher rates of numbness around the perineum (the area between the genitals and anus), they had no greater levels of either sexual difficulties or urinary problems than either the runners or the swimmers. In fact, the cyclists reported higher average scores for sexual function than their peers who focused their workouts on other activities.
A different study conducted by the same research team concentrated solely on women and cycling. For this one, nearly 2,700 women who exercised regularly at sports clubs around the world responded to surveys about their physical activity habits, sexual wellbeing, and urinary health. Similarly to their male counterparts, the women who cycled reached higher scores for sexual health. And once again, the women cyclists did not suffer from overall poorer urinary health than the women who performed other workouts. But the female cyclists were slightly more likely to experience urinary tract infections, and those who maintained a schedule of biking at least three times a week for more than two years had a greater risk of perineal numbness and sores around their buttocks.
So overall, this is good news if you enjoy cycling on a regular basis. It is a very beneficial form of exercise that can really become a great way to change your lifestyle. After all, if you work close enough to home, you can bike your commute rather than drive, saving money on gas, reducing your carbon footprint, and getting a daily dose of exercise all in one fell swoop. Biking can also be a lovely afternoon activity, getting you out into nature on a path through a park or another scenic route.
But do pay attention to how you feel in the groin area after going for a ride. Despite the fact that in both of the studies, the type of seat used did not affect the outcome, you still might want to consider various seat options for your bike, particularly if you typically ride on a road or mountain surface. You also may be more comfortable if you adjust the height of the seat or its angle. And if you are beginning to develop pain or numbness around the perineum, you might want to take a break from cycling and alternate it with another workout for a while. Even if it’s not dangerous to your sexual health, biking in moderation may be the key to optimizing this activity for you.
- 1. McVary, Kevin. "AUA 2017: Does Cycling Affect Men's and Women's Sexual Health and Urinary Functions?" Uro Today. 14 May 2017. Accessed 24 May 2017. https://www.urotoday.com/conference-highlights/aua-2017/aua-2017-press-releases/95560-aua-2017-does-cycling-affect-men-s-and-women-s-sexual-health-and-urinary-functions.html.