How to Cure Male Impotence Through Exercise
Groundbreaking new research at Australia’s University of Adelaide offers convincing evidence that some men can reverse the effects of impotence — and cure a host of other ills — by exercising and focusing on a healthier lifestyle.
The Australian study also provides further evidence that the root cause of erection dysfunction is primarily physical.
Gary Wittert, M.D., head of the Australian university’s Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health, which conducted the study, says the top ED risk factors include being overweight or obese, excessive intake of alcohol, sleeping difficulties, and, of course, age.
Study Tracks 810 Men
The Australian study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, tracked a group of 810 Australian men between the ages of 35 and 80 over the course of five years. During the study period, 31 percent of the subjects developed some form of erection dysfunction.
The good news, according to Wittert, is the large number of men who are naturally overcoming their problems with erection dysfunction. “The remission rate of those with erectile dysfunction was 29 percent, which is very high. This shows that many of these factors affecting men are modifiable, offering them an opportunity to do something about their condition.”
Benefits of Physical Activity
The results of the Australian study come as little surprise to Wayne Hellstrom, professor of urology at Tulane University’s School of Medicine in New Orleans, who has long maintained that even a little bit of daily physical activity may lower the risk of ED.
Interviewed by Madeline Vann for Everyday Health, Hellstrom says, “For men who have failing erections, the penis is a barometer of what’s happening in the rest of the body.”
The Tulane professor explains that the key to the link between exercise and erection dysfunction is the endothelium, the thin layer of cells that line the inside walls of blood vessels. Previous studies have shown that regular exercise improves the way that the endothelium works, thus promoting better circulation.
Role of Endothelium
The endothelium lines the blood vessels in the heart and in the penis, says Hellstrom, but the blood vessels in the penis are only about one-third the size of those in the heart. Thus, failure to have erections because of vascular problems is a pretty reliable indicator that you’re headed for heart problems as well.
Hellstrom points out that being more physically active helps to improve the health of your endothelium, and in so doing supports the health of your heart and penis as well.
Hellstrom makes clear that the exercise he recommends is not so-called “penis exercise,” which actually refers to pelvic floor or Kegel exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles that control ejaculation and the flow of urine. Although such exercises can be helpful to men who are recovering from prostate cancer treatment or have other difficulties associated with ejaculation or controlling urine flow, they haven’t been shown to help relieve erection dysfunction, says Hellstrom.
Pick Activities You Enjoy
Regular cardio and strength workouts are the types of exercise Hellstrom recommends for preventing — and reversing — the symptoms of erection dysfunction. The key to success, says Hellstrom, is picking physical activities that you enjoy and are likely to be able to continue over the long haul.
Hellstrom notes that studies have shown that walking briskly every day for at least three months can significantly improve the health of your blood vessels. If you love basketball, playing regularly and vigorously can supply the type of exercise you need to keep both your heart and penis in good working order.
Although, any form of activity is better than none, a combination of aerobic exercise — such as jogging, swimming, or walking — and resistance training or working with weights is probably ideal. In addition to increasing the overall benefits to your circulation, the variety helps to keep your exercise program interesting. And the more interesting your exercise program is, the more likely you are to stick to it over the long haul.
Consult Your Doctor
Hellstrom recommends that men planning to undertake a program of regular physical activity check first with their doctor, particularly if they have not been physically active for an extended period of time. Your doctor can offer suggestions as to which exercises are most suitable for you and how you can launch such a program by slowly but steadily increasing the duration and intensity of your workout over time.
Hellstrom also says that advanced age is no excuse to skip the exercise, pointing out that the incidence of ED increases with age. Your doctor should be able to suggest an exercise program that is appropriate for your age level, no matter how old you are.
Other Changes Helpful
Although regular exercise may be the single most important step you can take to fight impotence, Sean Martin, Ph.D., lead author of the Australian study, suggests that other lifestyle modifications can also be part of an overall effort to improve your overall health. Such changes might include improving your nutrition, reducing your weight, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, improving your sleep habits, and addressing other risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels.
For those with ED, a comprehensive program of healthy lifestyle modification “is not only likely to improve their sexual ability but will improve their cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of developing diabetes if they don’t already have it,” says Martin.
The benefits of regular physical activity and other healthy lifestyle changes extend even to men who still must take impotence medications to achieve and maintain a strong erection, according to Martin. “Even when medication to help with erectile function is required, it is likely to be considerably more effective if lifestyle factors are also addressed.”
Echoes Earlier Study
The Australian study’s findings echo the results of a somewhat narrower Italian study that was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association roughly a decade earlier. That study focused solely on the benefits of increased physical activity and weight loss on the symptoms of ED among a study group of 110 obese men. Men in the study group ranged in age from 35 to 55, and all had been diagnosed with erection dysfunction, as determined by having scores of 21 or less on the International Index of Erectile Function, or IIEF. All, however, were free of diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels.
Subjects in the Italian study were divided into two groups of 55. One group, designated the intervention group, received detailed advice about how to achieve a 10 percent reduction in their total body weight by reducing caloric intake and increasing their level of physical activity. Men in the control group were given general information about healthy food choices and exercise.
Improvements in BMI
After two years, the men in the intervention group had reduced their body mass index significantly — from an average of 36.9 to 31.2 — and had increased their physical activity from an average of 48 minutes per week to 195 minutes per week. By contrast, men in the control group reduced their average BMI from 36.4 to 35.7 and had increased physical activity from an average of 51 to 84 minutes per week.
Most importantly, however, men in the intervention group showed significantly improved scores on the IIEF — mean score rose to 17 from 13.9 — while those in the control group showed hardly any change at all. Seventeen of those in the intervention group scored 22 or higher on the IIEF, indicating that they had effectively reversed their symptoms of ED.
If you have begun suffering from symptoms of erection dysfunction and are looking for a way to counteract them, take a lesson from these research studies and consider spending a little more time in the gym. You may find that exercise and other lifestyle changes can put you on the road to recovery and save you a bundle on impotence medications you won’t really need.
Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.