Erectile dysfunction (also known as ED or impotence) is marked by the inability to get and maintain an adequate erection. If it is an ongoing issue, then it can negatively impact your psychological health. It can also be a sign of more serious health conditions. About half of all adult men have some form of erectile dysfunction, but recent studies have shown that exercise might actually be able help you treat it.
What are the signs, symptoms, and side effects of erectile dysfunction?
Symptoms include persistent trouble getting an erection, persistent trouble keeping an erection, and reduced sex drive.
You should see your doctor if you are experiencing early ejaculation, late ejaculation, or other sexual problems. You should also see your doctor if you have heart disease, diabetes, or other health issues associated with erectile dysfunction.
People with erectile dysfunction often have stress, an unsatisfactory sex life, anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship problems, and inability to get a female partner pregnant.
What can cause erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction results from a wide variety of complex problems associated with processes that involve your brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. Many medical conditions associated with these processes are, therefore, often a cause of erectile dysfunction. These medical conditions include heart diseases, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, peyronie’s disease, and sleep disorders.
Use and abuse of certain drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can cause erectile dysfunction as well. Drugs often associated with erectile dysfunction are diuretics, medications for hypertension, medications heart problems, sleeping pills, amphetamines, other drugs that affect the central nervous system, medications for anxiety, MAOIs, SSRIs, other antidepressants, painkillers, cancer drugs, hormone drugs, and medications for ulcers.
There are also some psychological problems that can result in erectile dysfunction, such as relationship problems, stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. However, these psychological problems are said to only cause about 10% of cases of erectile dysfunction.
What are some of the risk factors of erectile dysfunction?
There are a number of risk factors for erectile dysfunction. These factors include aging, diabetes, heart conditions, tobacco use, obesity, history of prostate cancer, injuries, psychological conditions, and drug and alcohol abuse. Medications for depression, allergies, high blood pressure, and prostate conditions can also increase your likelihood of having erectile dysfunction.
How can you avoid getting erectile dysfunction?
As long as you are making healthy choices and managing existing medical conditions, you have a good chance of preventing erectile dysfunction. Stay on top of you diabetes, heart diseases, and other chronic illnesses. Try not to smoke, drink alcohol, or take illegal drugs. Exercise often, avoid stressful situations, and make sure to get help for any mental health concerns that you may have.
How to treat erectile dysfunction?
There are a lot of medications and procedures that are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction. Viagra and Cialis are probably the two most popular erectile dysfunction medications, but there are many drugs that can be used to increase adequate blood flow during sex.
Newer research reveals that physical activity can also be helpful for effectively treating erectile dysfunction. A study that was recently published indicated that exercise can result in a 4% increase in the likelihood of getting a satisfactory erection.
Why might exercise help men with erectile dysfunction?
The theory is that your pelvic floor muscle is important for erections and penile firmness in general. It is responsible for making sure that blood does not flow backwards in some of the veins in your pelvis. When contracted, it can also serve to increase blood pressure around your pelvis. This all means that any exercises that strengthens your pelvic floor muscle will help treat erectile dysfunction.
One study documented men with erectile dysfunction who did not report having any other preexisting health conditions commonly associated with erectile dysfunction. When these men were instructed to do pelvic floor exercises, they reported improvement in their erectile dysfunction symptoms within about three months.
Additionally, many cardiac or aerobic exercises can also be beneficial to people with erectile dysfunction. Strengthening your heart muscle is one way to have more efficient blood flow throughout your body. Increased blood flow can also result in better erections. Cardio workouts are also helpful because erectile dysfunction is often correlated with conditions involving inadequate blood flow.
Therefore, some studies suggest that aerobic exercise might be a very effective form of exercising for men with erectile dysfunction. One study, for example, revealed that men suffering from both erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure were likely to see improvements in their erectile within about eight weeks of aerobic exercise.
Unfortunately, in many of these erectile dysfunction studies, the short term medical trials tended to show much more success rates than any of the longer term trials. The prevalence of term failure rates my sign that exercise cannot function as a real solution to erectile dysfunction. However, it is also possible the failures were a result of patients insufficiently following through with orders as time went on. Patients who only had to work out for two weeks before they were re-evaluated were able to manage the two week workout schedule. Trials that went on for two years before re-evaluation were more likely to see patients who got lazy and could not fully maintain their exercise routine.
What are some common aerobic or pelvic floor muscle exercises?
For cardio workouts, the studies focused on swimming and aquarobics, but running, walking, cycling, rowing, boxing, and dancing can also help. Anything that gets your heart and lungs working harder will likely be a good aerobic workout. Pelvic floor muscle exercises include simply finding ways to tighten and contract your pelvic floor muscles.
Any other type of exercise can also help treat the medical conditions commonly associated with erectile dysfunction (such as obesity, diabetes, and many mental health disorders), which can indirectly cause erectile dysfunction symptoms to subside.
More research is still needed before healthcare providers will accept exercise as an effective treatment for people with erectile dysfunction. The current research shows all the positive impacts of exercise, but no research has been conducted that documents any possible setbacks for men who use exercise to treat erectile dysfunction. Still, even if later research shows that physical activity is not the best solution to erectile dysfunction, consistent exercise is almost always a healthy life choice. If you want to treat erectile dysfunction with lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor about figuring out what works best for you.