Erectile Dysfunction Basics
Frustrating and embarrassing, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem that occurs in many men, and for many reasons. ED is often caused by physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and low testosterone. Other causes may include psychological issues, blood flow problems, hormonal fluctuations, and nerve damage.
Treating ED with medications like sildenafil (brand name: Viagra) isn’t your only option. Instead, there are exercises you can do. A study from the University of the West in the U.K. found that pelvic exercises helped 40 percent of men with ED regain normal erectile function. They also helped an additional 33.5 percent significantly improve erectile function. Additional research suggests pelvic muscle training may be helpful for treating ED as well as other pelvic health issues.
Pelvic floor exercises improve the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and are more commonly known as Kegel exercises. Women perform Kegels in preparation for and to regain muscle tone after childbirth. Kegels also promote urinary continence and sexual health.
Kegel exercises can benefit men as well. In particular, they help to strengthen the bulbocavernosus muscle. This important muscle does three jobs: it allows the penis to engorge with blood during erection, it pumps during ejaculation, and it helps empty the urethra after urination.
Basic Kegel Exercise
The best method for locating the muscles of the pelvic floor (the lower pelvis) is to stop your stream several times in the middle of urination. The muscles you clench to do this are the ones you need to exercise.
To perform a rep of Kegel exercises, squeeze those muscles, hold for five seconds, then relax. Repeat this 10 to 20 times, two or three times a day. You may want to try this in different positions, including lying down with your knees up, sitting in a chair, and standing.
Beyond the Basics
You probably won’t be able to finish a complete series of 10 Kegels when you first try. That’s fine. Do what you can, and eventually work up to 10 to 20 Kegels, three times a day.
Don’t hold your breath or push with your stomach, buttocks, or thigh muscles. Remember to relax after each count of five. Alternate between short and long squeezes to challenge yourself.
Another way to think about Kegels is to squeeze the muscles of your anus, like you are holding a bowel movement. Hold for five to 10 seconds while breathing, then relax all muscles.
Pelvic floor exercises help to relieve erectile dysfunction. They can also help:
- reduce urinary or bowel incontinence
- stop dribble after urination
- improve overall sexual experience
Working the muscles beyond the pelvic floor may also help combat erectile dysfunction. A study published in The American Journal of Cardiology indicates that aerobic exercise may help improve ED.
ED is often caused by blood flow problems to the penis. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and vascular disease can affect blood flow and result in ED. Adding aerobic exercise to your routine can improve your overall health and may lead to improvements in ED.
Even brisk walking 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week, may be enough to change your cardiovascular health and impact your ED.
There are a lot of websites advertising miracles with a particular exercise technique or herbal supplement. Don’t fall for these. Although ED can be stressful and difficult to talk about, there are safe, proven methods for dealing with ED.
Pelvic floor exercises and aerobic exercises are a great first step in confronting ED. Chances are, you’ll see improvements without having to take ED medications. Drugs like sildenafil (brand name: Viagra) can prevent you from dealing with the underlying health issues that caused ED. According to Mayo Clinic, ED might be an early sign of heart problems.
Also, you may have a condition that makes ED medications unsafe to take. For example, you shouldn’t take many ED medications if you have heart disease or are taking nitrate drugs or blood thinners. In these cases, penile pumps, implants, or blood vessel surgery may be options.
ED Doesn’t Have to Run Your Life
ED isn’t necessarily best treated by popping a pill. There are many methods for conquering ED and reclaiming your sex life that do not involve medication. Simple pelvic floor exercises are a great place to start.
You can perform Kegel exercises anywhere, anytime. Put a note in your calendar if you have a hard time remembering.
Aerobic exercise improves your overall cardiovascular health, which has direct impact on your ability to achieve and maintain an erection.
Dealing with the underlying cause of ED is a much more effective way to improve your sexual health. Talk with your doctor about your ED to find out which treatment methods are right for you.