Erectile dysfunction. These two fancy words sound like a nightmare, don’t they?
As if our masculinity itself was at risk. As if our manliness was being questioned.
Truth is, this nightmare is a worldwide pandemic affecting around 20% of the male population, and gradually increasing over the years. What’s even scarier is that it seems that the fundamental reason behind this condition is still unknown: we have certain data indicating that ED is more commonly reported in white males and that certain diseases like diabetes and atherosclerosis.
But these are just numbers. To a great extent, statistics are useless without a solid background. So what is the cause of erectile dysfunction?
Possible causes of erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction as a phenomenon is characterized by an inability to either achieve or maintain an erection for a period of time that would be deemed as “enough” by the male in question and/or his sexual partner. Although this definition sounds like a no-brainer, the causes of such a condition are vast and questionable. In other words, there isn’t a single specific enemy or compromising factor you need to address: instead, it’s an overwhelming variety of possibilities that could be leading to this condition.
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction
- Depression. Although this condition is clearly connected to erectile dysfunction, scientists affirm it could be “bidirectional,” meaning that it is hard to establish whether depression had led to ED or it was the other way around. Nevertheless, the link between the two is undeniable.
- Performance anxiety, which consists of the patient’s worries and concerns related to the strength and durability of his erection as well as his overall sexual performance. Studies have long confirmed that in certain cases the described state could cause erectile dysfunction.
- Stress is also believed to be a major factor contributing to the development of erectile dysfunction regardless of the specific field (e.g. work, college, family issues) that has generated it.
Lifestyle factors & health conditions
- Tobacco smoking is one of the most significant lifestyle factors that increase the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Current smokers have a 51% greater chance of developing ED, while former smokers have a 29% greater risk than never-smokers.
- Sleep disorders have been confirmed to have a strong correlation with erectile disorders, especially sleep apnea syndrome (SAS).
- Obesity. Just imagine this: a normal BMI (body mass index) lays in the range 18.5-24.9 kg/m2; a BMI of 25-30 is associated with a 1.5 times greater risk of developing ED, and a BMI over 30 makes you 3 times more likely to develop this condition.
- Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common complications of diabetes, and the risk of developing it goes hand in hand with one’s time of suffering from the latter.
- Atherosclerosis, also known as arterial plaque, is a well-known risk factor for ED, so it is important to keep an eye on your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol at all times.
- There seems to be a connection between chronic renal failure and erectile dysfunction: the prevalence of ED in this group of patients is as high as 57.9%.
Oh, and let’s not forget the drug-induced type of erectile dysfunction. Such medications as barbiturates and opioids are known to cause a certain degree of ED, although it is usually a temporary one which subsides after the patients stop taking the drugs in question.
All in all, there’s a multitude of things that may either cause ED or contribute to its development, but how soon should you sound the alarm? What are the earliest manifestations of erectile dysfunction in males?
Signs of erectile dysfunction
Although the manifestations of ED are pretty straightforward, let’s make a quick overview of the full scope of signs a person with erectile dysfunction may experience.
- Absence of morning erections (widely referred to as “morning wood”)
- Inability to achieve erection (in some cases, even after direct and passionate stimulation)
- Insufficient duration of one’s erection
- Insufficient hardness of one’s erection
- Sudden loss of erection either spontaneously or after a certain thought/feeling
In short, any male whose erection is insufficient in terms of duration or hardness is considered to have ED. But that’s not too specific, isn’t it? After all, we all have that “bad day” from time to time, or we may be too tired, or have had a drink or two that we’d better not.
A scientific paper published in 2010 proposed the following criteria to be adopted for the diagnosis of male erectile dysfunction:
– Inability to achieve and maintain an erection of sufficient duration and/or hardness in 75% of all attempts of sexual intercourse.
– The described inability should have been lasting for at least 6 consecutive months.
But let’s be honest here for a second: it’s impossible for a male to be struck with erectile dysfunction and NOT notice it. When’ll you have it (God forbid, of course, but still!), you’ll know it. And it will be a crushing blow to your self-esteem and confidence.
But don’t despair bro. Erectile dysfunction is not a sentence. There are quite a few effective ways to fight the condition, and not all of them are even closely related to drugs and supplements!
In fact, some of the most fabulous approaches to the treatment of ED are specific physical exercises aimed at improving the performance of the muscles that lead to erection in the first place, such as the ischiocavernosus, bulbospongiosus muscles, as well as the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Excited? Let’s not waste a minute more and move on to the interesting stuff!
3 exercises that help cure erectile dysfunction
Approach #1: Kegel Exercise
What are Kegels?
Kegel exercise, sometimes referred to as pelvic floor exercise or just “kegels” is a physical exercise routine which consists of contracting and relaxing the pelvic diaphragm. Kegels can be done anywhere, anytime, even during your other usual duties and activities—that’s why they are so convenient and popular. You don’t need any special education courses or tutorials to master kegels, while the benefits they can provide to your health are tremendous at the very least.
History of kegels
The history of kegels dates back to 1948 when they were first introduced by American gynecologist Arnold Henry Kegel. Originally, he designed these exercise to be an option of conservative (non-surgical) treatment of stress urinary incontinence and female genital prolapse, but the years have later revealed that his invention could be quite beneficial for the treatment of many other health conditions including erectile dysfunction.
Many types of pelvic toning devices were created after the initial introduction of the Kegel exercises, but most of them are suitable only for women and don’t really offer any significant additional benefits compared to kegels alone.
What are the benefits of Kegel exercise?
A study conducted in 2005 analyzed whether pelvic floor exercises (kegels) are really beneficial for the treatment of ED. The first improvements of the men’s condition set in after 3 months of performing kegels, and after three more months (6 total) the results were just amazing: normal erectile function was achieved in 40% of men, 35.5% of men noticed significant improvements but were unable to achieve a fully normal erectile function, and just 24.5% of males failed to achieve any level of improvement whatsoever.
Other fabulous benefits of Kegels for males include relief of:
- Urinary incontinence after prostate surgery
- Premature ejaculation
- Urinary bladder excess reactivity
- Postvoid dribbling
How to perform Kegel exercise?
This is where the tricky part begins. To be sure that you are performing your Kegel exercises the right way, the first step is to locate the muscles you’ll need to use. Here’s a quick tip on how to do that: during urination, force yourself to stop the flow of urine halfway through the process. A rule of thumb affirms that the same muscles you’ll use to do that are the ones you should squeeze during kegels. But be aware that this is a one-time procedure, as urologists do not recommend stopping the urination process by force. The second approach is to elevate your penis during erection. The muscles you need to contract during kegels slightly elevate the penis when contracted. Another indication that you are using the right muscles is the upward movement of your scrotum and testicles.
After discovering how to contract the right muscles, it’s time to learn what are the most common types of kegel movements:
– Quick squeezes: contractions followed by almost immediate relaxation.
– Long squeezes: strong contractions for quite long periods of time.
– Reverse kegels: forceful relaxation of the said muscles. The intended sensation during reverse kegels is much like the feeling you get when forcing the urine to flow out faster during urination. Basically, reverse kegels are like forceful urination—but without the peeing part. 🙂
These three basic movements are then combined into certain routines you should do regularly over long periods of time (we are talking about months here) to start noticing any significant results. But they are absolutely worth it, so be patient and keep kegelling on!
Beginner’s routine for Kegel exercise
The easiest way to start kegelling is to introduce these exercises into your usual routine by doing them as often as you want or can. There’s no such thing as “too much kegels,” and there’s no possibility of you harming yourself in the process. Quite the contrary: the more often you do Kegel exercises, the better and sooner the results will be.
Here goes a basic example of how your Kegel routine could look like:
- In a sitting position, do 5-10 quick squeezes
- Do 5 long contractions for 10 seconds each, followed by a brief pause of 2-3 seconds
- Do 1-2 reverse kegels for 2-3 seconds each
- Repeat the whole cycle (quick squeezes, long squeezes, reverse kegels) 3-5 times, a 10-second pause between each set.
- Do the described routine at least 3 times per day, each day with no exceptions.
But one of the best things about kegels is that you don’t really need to do them in the form of sessions. In fact, you can do kegels while walking around, lying on the sofa, working on your laptop, or even flexing your biceps at the gym. Everything counts, and everything will bring you great results in a couple of months.
Virtually none, if you perform your kegels the right way. Focus on your pelvic floor muscles: your back and stomach should remain relaxed even during the strongest contractions you do (excluding reverse kegels, your abdominal muscles contract a bit during those).
Certain sources affirm that you actually can overdo your Kegel exercises, resulting in fatigue of the muscles in questions and their inability to perform their functions, but frankly—that’s total BS. It’s hard to imagine just HOW MUCH Kegel exercises you should do for something like that to happen.
Approach #2: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
What is high-intensity interval training?
Also known as high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) and sprint interval training (SIT), HIIT is a type of physical exercise which consists of a quick session of vigorous aerobic exercise followed by a brief period of moderate-to-low intensity activity. Immediately after that, there is one more high-intensity session, and thus the cycle goes on and on until you are too exhausted to keep on going.
The usual formula is considered to be a 2:1 ratio. For example, you can run at full speed (give it ALL you can) for 30-40 seconds, and then slowly walk for 15-20 seconds. Then go back to running for half a minute, and so on. Repeat until reaching the point of exhaustion.
Sounds fancy and intense, doesn’t it? You bet. But how will your erection benefit from such a brutal type of cardio workout?
Cardio improves vascular health, thus improving blood circulation in the penis
The association between cardiovascular health and erectile function is a well-known one. If the former is strong, the latter most likely also is (such a shame it doesn’t work the other way around!), so keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy and strong is an absolute must for any man.
The most effective way to improve your heart’s health and endurance is by regularly doing aerobic (cardio) exercises, which force your heart to beat at a quicker pace. The specific exercises you pick are not that important: they’re all great as long as they boost your heart rate.
Swimming, running, cycling, rope-jumping, and even just having sex: all of these are great options for a cardio session. The only difference is, perhaps, the duration of said activities and their intensity, as there’s clearly a limit to how quickly you can skip rope.
All in all, running at intermittent speeds seems to be the most convenient way of doing HIIT. But why don’t you just keep running without changing your pace? The answer to this question might come as a surprise for some folks.
Long cardio sessions can decrease testosterone levels
Yep, that’s right. Let’s take a look at some of the scariest numbers.
A study conducted back in 2000 revealed that men who ran more than forty miles every week experienced much lower testosterone levels compared to the short-running folks. A more recent study, published in 2006, revealed that male marathoners experience a 55% drop in T at the end of their runs. Yikes. For further reading visit this post (Endurance Training Is Bad For Testosterone Production).
But there’s one more great benefit you can expect from high-intensity intermittent training sessions.
HIIT increases human growth hormone levels
Many studies have confirmed that sprint-trained athletes have higher levels of human growth hormone than endurance-trained folks. Why should you care? Well, it turns out that besides helping you to build insane muscle mass, growth hormone may actually play a certain role in penile erection, as some studies affirm.
Long story short: HIIT is better than your usual cardio and MUCH better than long and exhausting run. For some extra evidence, search a picture of an Olympic sprinter and a generic marathoner. Judging by the looks, who would you think has a stronger erection and higher testosterone levels?
The answer should be obvious. 😉 For further reading visit this post (Can sprints increase human growth hormone?).
Approach #3: Yoga
This one is often considered to be something more suitable for women, but that’s just not true. Of course, yoga has little to do with brute force or straightforward endurance, but the benefits it can provide you in terms of erectile function are just fabulous. Let’s take a look at some quick facts!
Yoga increases blood flow to the pelvic region
Many asanas (poses) in yoga stretch the muscles of the pelvic floor and significantly improve blood circulation in this part of your body. Besides that, when combined with meditational practices, yoga increases awareness of one’s sexuality and is believed to improve sexual energy in general. Although the last statement is quite hard to verify using standard scientific methods, many males report improvement of libido after starting taking yoga classes.
Yoga increases pelvic floor strength
All yoga asanas that involve yourself maintaining an uncomfortable or unusual position of your legs may increase the strength of your pelvic floor muscles. Some poses are better than others, but it takes an experienced instructor to give you a comprehensive review on the matter. In any case, don’t hesitate in having an honest and straightforward chat with your yoga teacher and telling him exactly what you need and expect from your classes. This will drastically boost the effectiveness of your training, and result in a better erectile function in the long run.
Yoga reduces stress
Not only stress, actually. Numerous studies indicate that yoga can significantly alleviate one’s anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and even improve quality of sleep. Notice that at least 3 of these points are believed to contribute to the development of ED, as stated in the first couple of sections in this article, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that yoga really improves erection (along with all other aspects of a male’s sex life).
BONUS TIP: You can actually do kegels AND yoga at the same time! It could take some time before you get used to this sort of multitasking, but it would surely be worth the trouble. Double action, after all!
It’s safe to say that erectile dysfunction is a worldwide pandemic, as about 20% of the global male population is affected by this dreadful condition. What’s even worse is that we currently don’t have an ultimate answer regarding the causes of ED. Certain lifestyle factors (smoking, sleep disorders), health conditions (atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, chronic renal failure), and psychologic issues (depression, anxiety, stress) may contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction, but there is no such thing as a sole culprit that we could eradicate to guarantee our sexual performance.
Nevertheless, ED is not an ultimate sentence that you need to accept and ignore. ED is a fight, a challenge to accept and dominate, as there are quite a few ways of dealing with this condition. And not all of them require you to take a certain drug, not even a natural supplement!
Take physical exercises, for example. Such approaches like kegels, high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT), and yoga have shown fantastic results in improving erection, along with many other aspects of a male’s sex life. The essential component in this puzzle is perseverance and regularity, as treating ED is a process that takes time (several months at the very least).
The battle won’t be easy; the hardness won’t come overnight. None of the described methods is a magic ritual that will cure your condition after a single session. You will have to dedicate yourself to your success and invest dozens of hours into achieving your goal.
But once it happens, you can be sure that it would be a long-lasting and solid effect, contrary to the temporary relief that modern medications may provide you with.
We believe it’s absolutely worth the struggle, and see no viable excuses for a man to give up the fight.
That said, we wish you the best of luck and an unending pool of enthusiasm to keep on exercising: your penis will thank you for that, and so will the ladies. 😉
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