Can Too Much Exercise Cause Erectile Dysfunction

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Erectile dysfunction, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is erectile dysfunction and what are the symptoms?

Erectile dysfunction (ED)¹ is a complex but common form of male sexual dysfunction. The term ED encompasses any change to your erectile response that is not considered normal function.

This includes the inability to produce an erection sufficient for pleasurable intimacy with a partner, and not being able to sustain an erection for long enough. 

About 30 million men² in the United States are suffering from ED at any one time. Depending on the cause of your erectile dysfunction, you can experience different symptoms. If you suffer from psychogenic ED (ED caused by stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues) you may experience:

  • Sudden onset of ED

  • Loss of the ability to sustain an erection

  • Intermittent ED, that is changes and depends on your situation

  • Maintaining the ability to develop erections while asleep.

If your ED has an organic cause (typically physiological causes), you may experience a slightly different set of symptoms including:

  • Gradual onset of ED

  • Progressive, meaning it will get worse over time

  • Consistently unable to have an erection, regardless of time and place

  • Erections may be better in a standing position than lying down (if the cause is related to a venous leak).

What are some of the causes of erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is caused by a lack of blood flow to the penis. This happens because the muscle residing within the penis remains tight and contracted, preventing blood from being able to enter the penis. 

The root cause of ED varies from person to person. Some potential causes of ED include:

  • Psychogenic causes such as stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

  • Diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque within the arteries), kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, and more.

  • As a side effect of some medications, including some blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antiseizure, sedatives and opiates, antiandrogens (medicines used to treat prostate cancer), and ulcer medications.

  • Lifestyle choices include excessive levels of smoking, drinking, illicit drugs, being overweight, and low levels of physical activity.

  • The risk of developing ED increases with age, with 52% of men between the ages of 40 and 70 years of age suffering from some form of erectile dysfunction.

Is there a link between exercise and erectile dysfunction?

There is an established link between exercise and ED. Reduced physical activity is known to increase your risk of developing ED. 

One systematic review³ found that men who exercised for 160 minutes a week for six months showed an improvement. As a result, there was a decrease in erectile dysfunction in this group.

In particular, men previously experiencing the following conditions were more likely to notice an improvement:

  • Inactive lifestyle 

  • Obesity 

  • Hypertension 

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, it appears that exercise reduces ED by improving other lifestyle factors that could directly impact ED. 

Another study⁴ found that men who engaged in 32.6 MET ( metabolic equivalent hours of exercise) per week had a significantly lower risk of developing erectile dysfunction than men who engaged in less than 2.7 MET equivalent hours of exercise per week. MET (metabolic equivalent) hours of exercise is a measure of energy expenditure during exercise.

Different forms of exercise have different MET equivalent hours based on their intensity. 

Additionally, exercise is thought to be important in improving erectile dysfunction once established. Men who exercised for more than four hours per week were significantly more likely to have a reversal of their erectile dysfunction than those who led sedentary lifestyles.

This research also took changes to the men's diet and other lifestyle factors into account. 

However, you must also be careful that you don’t do too much exercise. Research⁵ has shown that people who consistently do too much high-intensity endurance exercise experience decreased levels of libido (sex drive). 

Low libido can then result in ED due to reduced levels of testosterone. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your exercise regime may be impacting your erectile function.

How can you treat erectile dysfunction?

Most people can be treated for ED easily and with few side effects. 

The most common treatment for ED is oral phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5). These work by forcing the muscle in your penis to relax, allowing blood flow to the penis to increase. 

The four major PDE5 inhibitors that can be found in the United States are sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and avanafil (Stendra). They are typically available as a tablet.

Lifestyle modifications can help manage erectile dysfunction. As already stated, increasing your physical activity can improve your ability to have an erection. Reducing alcohol consumption and the amount you smoke can also reduce symptoms of ED.

Vacuum erection devices (VED), or penis pumps, are non-pharmaceutical options. They work by creating a vacuum around your penis, forcing blood to be drawn into the penis. While they are effective, there may be some adverse reactions, such as bruising and swelling of the penis. 

Surgical intervention is another option for treatment. If you are suffering from a more severe form of ED, a penile implant may be an option. They are effective and have low rates of failure.

A cylinder is placed within the penis shaft. Then a pump located in the testicles is used to inflate the cylinders before sex.

If you are interested in any of these forms of treatment, discuss options with your doctor to find out what is right for you.

Are there any precautions for exercising if you have been diagnosed with ED?

Exercise is effective at reducing your risk of developing ED and in some cases, can even reverse ED. However, you should consult a doctor before beginning any intensive exercise regime. 

This is especially true if you suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2)

  • Kidney disease

  • Arthritis

  • High blood pressure

  • Cancer (or you have recently finished cancer treatment).

When to see a doctor

You should contact a health care provider if you have concerns about ED. As ED is a common condition, especially in older men, your doctor will be familiar with it. You should also see your doctor if:

  • Do you have any concerns about erections or are experiencing other forms of sexual dysfunction like premature ejaculation.

  • You have a condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, or other health conditions that have an established link to ED.

  • You are experiencing other symptoms alongside ED.

The lowdown

ED is a condition that many men will experience in their lifetime. There are many reasons why you may be suffering from ED, from stress and anxiety to disease or poor lifestyle choices. 

If you are suffering from ED, exercise may be a solution. Moderate levels of exercise have been shown to reduce your risk of developing ED. If you are concerned about ED, you should contact your doctor. There is a wide range of effective treatments available.

Have you considered clinical trials for Erectile dysfunction?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Erectile dysfunction, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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