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It’s not uncommon for men to experience difficulty in getting or sustaining an erection every once in a while. But, when that sporadic ‘once in a while’ evolves into almost every time you try to have sex, erectile dysfunction (ED) can cause problems for your sexual health, self-esteem, and your relationships. 

While there’s no quick-fix for erectile dysfunction, there are certain things you can do to improve the journey back to a boner-fuelled sex life. Since we all know the value of exercise in maintaining overall health, let’s find out if exercise can improve erectile dysfunction.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is a medical condition that occurs in many men for many different reasons. In its simplest form, the cause of ED can be related to physical conditions, psychological issues, or a combination of both.

Physical conditions related to ED are those that affect the heart, blood vessels, hormones, nerves, cholesterol, or body weight. Think; heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone, blood flow problems, hormonal fluctuations, nerve damage, and diabetes.

Psychological problems related to ED are those that affect one’s mental health, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and performance anxiety.

What are risk factors for erectile dysfunction?

Risk factors that can increase the chance of developing erectile dysfunction, include:

  • Aged 40 or over

  • Alcohol and drug use

  • Cigarette use

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Insomnia

  • Sleep apnea

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Hormone abnormalities

  • Metabolic disorders

  • Obesity

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Peyronie’s disease

  • Vascular disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

Can exercise help erectile dysfunction?

Based on this systematic review, incorporating regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle is an effective step towards improving erectile dysfunction in men, and protecting against the dysfunction in the first place.

How exercise helps erectile function boils down to two of the leading causes: arterial dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. With risk factors for these conditions ranging from physical inactivity, obesity, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome, it’s clear that regular physical activity can improve overall health and wellbeing, as well as erectile dysfunction. And there’s a growing body of evidence to support this.

How often should you exercise to help erectile dysfunction?

In cases of impotence caused by obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, or physical inactivity, 40 minutes of physical activity a day, four times a week for six months will help expedite the return of healthy erectile function and normal sexual activity.

What kind of exercise helps erectile dysfunction?

Aerobic exercise

Blood flow problems are a leading cause of impotence for men living with health conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and vascular disease. Aerobic exercise is a simple lifestyle factor that can improve blood flow, cardiovascular health, weight loss, and sexual dysfunction.

When looking to improve erectile dysfunction, aerobic exercises are your best mates. Think; jogging, cycling, swimming, and brisk walking. In fact, one Harvard study found that just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day was linked to a 42% decrease in the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. It seems that treating erectile dysfunction with aerobic exercise truly is worth the walk around the block.

Kegel exercises

This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.

Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic exercises, are a form of physical activity that probably don’t receive a lot of conversational air-time at the local gym. But when a study by the University of the West in the United Kingdom discovers pelvic floor exercises to be responsible for helping 40% of men with erectile dysfunction regain normal erectile function, you better believe the hype.

Spanning the bottom of the pelvis, pelvic floor muscles enable you to control the release of urine, and delay urination until it’s convenient (not when you’re halfway hiking up a mountain). Pelvic muscles also play a key role in sexual function, particularly the act of ejaculation for men. So, when pelvic floor muscles are weakened, you can expect sexual function to be compromised.

Pelvic floor muscle training works by strengthening the bulbocavernosus muscle (a perineum muscular tube between the anus and genitals). To perform Kegel exercises:

  • Start by finding the right muscles. The next time you’re urinating, stop midstream and hold your flow. The muscles you used to stop urinating are your pelvic muscles.

  • Master your technique. Now that you’ve located your pelvic muscles, focus on tightening only those muscles for several seconds. Avoid holding your breath and flexing muscles in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks to support the hold.

  • Practice your Kegel exercise program. Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions, three times a day.

The best part is that nobody will even know you’re doing Kegel exercises. So, if you’ve been avoiding sexual intercourse because you can’t develop or maintain an erection, it may be time to ditch leg day in lieu of pelvic floor day.

Pilates exercises

If you have trouble maintaining a boner, consider Pilates the sexual medicine your body has been searching for. Pilates exercises are often recommended for men living with erectile dysfunction as they help to strengthen the pelvic floor. Movements like pelvic curls, supine foot raises, and knee fallouts form a great beginner exercise program for men trying to improve erectile function.

Pelvic curl or bridge pose

  • Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip width apart

  • Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as you raise your hips into the air, shifting your weight into your shoulders

  • Once you’ve reached the top, squeeze your glute muscles, maintaining a straight line from your knees to your shoulders

  • Hold the pose before slowly lowering your hips down to the floor, one vertebrae at a time

  • Exhale and release your muscles

  • Repeat up to 10 times a day

Supine foot raises

  • Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip width apart

  • Take a deep breath

  • When you exhale, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as you begin to raise one foot off the ground and straighten that same leg

  • Keep your other leg bent to protect your lower back

  • Raise the straightened leg as high as you can without moving your spine or hips

  • Once you’ve reached your highest leg position, inhale and slowly return the leg to the floor

  • Repeat on the opposite leg

  • Continue for 10 repetitions of each leg

Knee fallouts

  • Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip width apart

  • Activate your pelvic muscles as you slowly lower one knee out to the side towards the ground

  • Keep both feet on the ground and only lower your knee as far as it can go without disengaging the pelvic muscles

  • Return your knee to the centre

  • Repeat with the other knee

  • Complete at least five repetitions on each knee

Exercise is only one piece of a holistic ED treatment plan. If you’re looking for more support in overcoming ED, we’re here to help. Chat with a Stagger healthcare professional today.