One common health condition faced by men is erectile dysfunction (ED), also called impotency or penile angina. The persistent inability to get and maintain a penile erection sufficient to perform sexual intercourse could be due to factors such as smoking, poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.
Experts say that ED is mostly diagnosed in men who are 40 and above. But nowadays many youngsters too complain of its symptoms.
How is ED diagnosed?
“The diagnosis for erectile dysfunction would include blood tests to check the sex hormone profile and doppler ultrasound scan to identify if the cause is organic (neurological, nerve damage, insufficient supply of blood to the erectile tissue) or psychogenic (stress, anxiety, depression, etc.),” says Dr Shashidhar Boraiah, consultant microsurgical andrologist, Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru.
Exercises to overcome ED
Apart from pharmacological treatments, simple home exercises can help one manage erectile dysfunction.
According to a 2019 review paper, the most important risk factor for ED is physical inactivity, and thus physical activity and exercises are very effective when it comes to improving erection.
“Aerobic exercises, Kegel exercises (or pelvic floor exercises) and resistance exercises play a crucial role in managing impotency,” says Dr Boraiah.
1. Aerobic exercises
Experts say regular aerobic exercises help maintain a good cardiovascular reserve and improve cardiac efficiency by decreasing the deposition of fat or cholesterol in the arteries, increasing nitric oxide in the body (which is responsible for the dilation of arteries) and inducing the formation of new blood vessels. This ensures that sufficient oxygen is pumped to different organs. On the whole, aerobic exercises ensure a good and seamless blood supply to the arteries, which is essential for penile erection.
“Since the penis has some of the smallest arteries, good vascular health is essential,” says Dr Boraiah. “Regular aerobic exercises ensure good vascular health, which translates to good penile vascular health, ensuring proper erection.”
Brisk walking is the commonly suggested aerobic exercise, but moderate jogging or cycling or swimming can also be done.
“At least 30 to 40 minutes of brisk walking in a day for at least three to four times in a week, done on alternative days, will be effective,” he adds.
2. Kegel exercises
Obesity and physical inactivity lead to decreased pelvic floor tone. Pelvic floor muscles participate in an important way in the mechanics of penile erection. Kegels exercises are practised across the globe to treat impotency since they predominantly work on the pelvic floor muscles.
“Kegel exercises involve tightening and relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor,” says Dr Boraiah. “A common Kegel exercise involves contracting and holding the bulbospongiosus muscle (one of the pelvic floor muscles) for five to seven seconds and then relaxing it for 10 seconds. It can be done in a sitting or standing position or by lying on the back or in an elevated position.”
A set containing 20 to 25 repetitions can be done three times a day.
Explaining the exercise, he says the individual must imagine passing urine and then trying to stop urination by concentrating on contracting the pelvic floor muscles. This can also be done by trying to contract the anus sphincter.
Kegels exercises are not very effective unless combined with medical treatment, Dr Boraiah adds.
3. Resistance training
An individual must do resistance exercises to strengthen muscles in the back, thighs, glutes and core.
“Core strengthening exercises like abdominal crunches can be done to improve the glute strength, the thigh muscle strength and the lower back, improving the core strength overall,” adds Dr Boraiah.
These exercises increase blood flow to the pelvic region. This ensures proper blood flow to the pelvic organs and enables penile erections, he says.
Medicines alone are not enough
“In the treatment of ED, medicines might work only around 50%,” says Dr Boraiah. “The remaining has to be addressed with lifestyle changes that involve physical activities or physical exercises along with a protein-rich diet.”
And smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol need to be avoided.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED), also called impotency, is the inability to get and maintain an erection during intercourse.
- Aerobic exercises, Kegel exercises and resistance training are recommended for treating erectile dysfunction.
- Medicines might work only about 50% in the treatment of ED — the rest has to be addressed with lifestyle changes involving physical activities.