Get Your Sweat On: How Exercise, Heart Disease and ED Are Connected
You either love to hate it, hate to love it, or love to love it (strange), but you undoubtedly know at least some of the wide-ranging benefits of exercise.
Beyond lowering stress, cholesterol and a host of other things that are bad for you, the direct link between exercise and heart health is further tied to erectile function—and dysfunction.
"ED can be one of the first manifestations of heart disease," said Ramy Abou Ghayda, M.D., an Ohio-based urologist and chief medical officer at fertility service Legacy.
He explained that the relationship comes down to the tiny little blood vessels in the penis. Since these microscopic movers are the smallest blood vessels in the body, they’re also among the first to show dysfunction when clogged or blocked, potentially signaling more serious problems up north. If the vessels are clogged and blood flow is limited, it could present itself as ED. According to Abou Ghayda, this is a primary reason why when a patient comes into his urology office with signs of ED, the first thing he’ll do is order a full cardiology workup.
The results of those tests can show if the particular case of ED is linked to a hormonal issue or something more circulatory. If it’s the latter, then the goal is to get heart-healthy.
It’s all about getting your heart rate up
Don’t think that you need to start training for a marathon to get the bedroom performance benefits of exercise. Abou Ghayda said there isn’t a set amount of time you need to work out or even an ideal heart rate goal. It’s simply about working up a bit of a sweat 3-4 times a week (sex, of course, is an option though not the best one). Not only will you be maintaining your heart health, but you’ll also be warding off potential metabolic syndrome—a combination of several nasty, heart-affecting diseases including hypertension and future obesity.
(If you need some sort of timing guideline to go by, a 2018 Sexual Medicine study and review found that 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of “moderate to vigorous intensity” four times per week could contribute to decreased ED.)
Exercise could potentially replace the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in mild cases of ED as well. A 2019 Natural Review of Urology literature review noted that physical activity could be a "first-line treatment option" for ED but that there’s not enough conclusive evidence yet to call it definitive.
Current metabolic patients can also benefit
For those now suffering from cardiovascular-related ED, light exercise could be a way to help reverse some of those symptoms. A 2013 controlled clinical trial study tracked 20 patients with ED and metabolic syndrome in two groups: one used a common blood vessel dilation treatment and the other used that medication in tandem with exercise. The latter group showed more significant endurance and oxygen consumption improvements, meaning they were able to exercise harder and for longer. The summation is that this capacity also served to improve their condition-related ED.
The best part about this link? It’s not just for men. A 2019 Journal of Sexual Medicine study found that some sort of regular exercise could help improve sexual function in both men and women, meaning that everyone can benefit from a little more rigor in their daily lives. (Of course, anyone who isn’t used to exercise should consult their physician before starting a regimen to ensure that it’s the right kind of workout for them.)
So the next time you need a little motivation to get on that new treadmill in your home office, think about all of the good work you’re putting into your body—and your sex life.