In recent years, there have been enough reports claiming that cycling can have a negative impact on sperm quality and erectile function. So much so, that many men with hopes of one day starting a family may have thought twice before donning the Lycra and hitting the road. But a new report indicates it's safe for men to get in the saddle, as cycling doesn't pose an increased risk of sexual or urinary dysfunction.
Numerous studies have given rise to the belief that cycling can have detrimental effects on sexual or urinary health due to prolonged pressure on the perineum and micro-trauma. But the researchers involved in this latest study say that previous findings were the result of poor study methods. Namely, they failed to use validated measures or comparison groups and had limited sample sizes.
In contrast, this new study is claimed to be the largest of its kind, involving 2,774 cyclists, 539 swimmers, and 789 runners from various countries. The participants completed a number of validated questionnaires and also answered questions about urinary tract infections (UTIs), urethral strictures, genital numbness, and saddle sores. The research also took into account cycling intensity, bicycle and saddle configuration, and even road conditions.
The cyclists were divided into two groups – a low intensity group who cycled on a regular basis, and a high intensity group who had cycled three times per week, averaging 25 miles (40 km) per day, for at least two years. The non-cyclist group consisted of those that didn't cycle on a regular basis, but who swim or run.
In comparing the different groups, the researchers made some interesting findings. Sexual and urinary health were comparable across all participants, although some cyclists had a higher rate of urethral strictures. Perhaps most surprising for those that had read previous studies was the cyclists in the high intensity group had overall better erectile dysfunction scores than those in the low intensity group. Less surprising was the finding that standing for more than 20 percent of the time while riding significantly reduced the chances of genital numbness.
In terms of the bicycle and road surface, the researchers found that neither had a negative impact on cyclists, but riding with a handlebar height lower than the saddle height did increase the chances of genital numbness and saddle sores.
"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," says lead investigator Benjamin Breyer, MD, MAS, of the Department of Urology, University of California–San Francisco. "We believe the results will be encouraging for cyclists. Cycling provides tremendous cardiovascular benefits and is low impact on joints. We believe the health benefits enjoyed by cyclists who ride safely will far outweigh health risks."
The study will be published in the March 2018 edition of The Journal of Urology.
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