Walking 2 Miles a Day Can Improve Men's Sexual Health

Man walking for sexual health

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When we are sexually healthy, it means we're able to fully participate in sexual activity and be present in the enjoyment of the experience. For men, being in a state of optimal sexual health is two-fold. First, there must be sexual desire, also known as libido, and second, there must be an ability to get and sustain an erection, otherwise known as erectile function.

When a man is unable to sexually perform, he may be experiencing impotence or erectile dysfunction (ED). Impotence is an inability or impairment of ability to have sex, which can be caused by physiological issues, though there are often emotional and/or mental health factors at play as well.

Fortunately, there are many ways to treat male impotence, ranging from prescription medications to testosterone therapy to penile injections or surgery, to name a few. But there's also a natural, non-invasive way to help manage erectile dysfunction, and it's more accessible than you may realize. The best part? It doesn't cost a thing, and your overall health and well-being will benefit.

Erectile Dysfunction Risk Factors

Erectile dysfunction is a frustrating condition that can lead to dissatisfying sexual activity for both parties involved. A number of factors may cause ED, including low testosterone, depression, or stress, as well as vascular disorders such as clogged arteries and even complications from urological surgery. ED may also be an early warning sign of heart disease. 

Vascular and Heart Health

There's a strong link between ED and vascular health, and regular exercise improves blood flow to help keep your arteries clear of clogs. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research determined that regular exercise, when combined with other healthy lifestyle changes, had the potential to improve both impotence and vascular health.

"Lifestyle modifications, including physical and penile-specific exercise, weight loss, omega-3 and folic acid supplements, reduced intakes of fat and sugar, and improved antioxidant status through diet and/or supplements, should be integrated into any comprehensive approach to maximizing erectile function, resulting in greater overall success and patient satisfaction, as well as improved vascular health and longevity," the study authors wrote.

Here's how it works: The penile blood vessels send warning signals of coronary disease when blood flow is slowed down due to clogged arteries. Nitric oxide (NO), which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow, is necessary for an erection. Physical activity has been shown to increase vascular nitric oxide, and an exercise and weight loss program can increase NO production as well.

In short, exercise keeps the blood flowing, which may work to prevent or treat impotence in the same manner that it works to prevent heart disease.

Physical Activity

A well-known study published in the journal Urology surveyed nearly 600 men aged 40 to 70 in the Boston area during the late 1980s and then again in the late 1990s. At the start of the study, subjects had been diagnosed with neither erectile dysfunction nor prostate cancer.

The men were also generally in good health, as they had never been treated for diabetes or heart disease at the start of the study. From the onset of the study to the nine-year follow-up, researchers examined whether the men had experienced moderate or complete ED with a self-administered questionnaire that assessed their sexual function.

The groundbreaking research, which was published in 2000, showed that subjects who continued a regular exercise program or took up exercising during middle age reduced their risk of developing impotence.

However, subjects who took other healthy measures during mid-life did not see a reduced risk. Those who made changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or cutting back on drinking did not reduce their risk of impotence, according to the research. It seemed like exercise was the key.

Obesity

Results from the study indicated that men who were obese at baseline faced a higher risk of ED, regardless of any weight that was lost by the follow-up. The highest risk for ED was among the men who were the most sedentary and performed the least amount of physical activity.

Researchers concluded that "physical activity may reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction even if initiated in mid-life. Early adoption of healthy lifestyles may be the best approach to reducing the burden of erectile dysfunction on the health and well-being of older men."

In recent years, further research has continued to suggest that regular physical activity may help manage impotence and maintain male sexual health. In 2013, a review of existing medical literature indicated that weight loss may "reverse ED through other mechanisms, namely, decreased inflammation, increased serum testosterone levels, and improved mood and self-esteem."

The authors noted that the evidence pointed to several factors that may contribute to an improvement in male sexual health. These factors included increased exercise, weight loss and healthy body mass index (BMI), and smoking cessation.

Meanwhile, a 2018 review recommended that physically inactive men engage in moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity for 40-minute durations four times a week, and suggested that following this regimen would lead to improvements in erectile dysfunction in as little as six months.

We know that regular exercise is great for overall health, and there is considerable evidence to support that it's great for sexual health, too—no matter what your gender. In fact, a 2020 review notes that regular exercise can improve sexual function among peri- and post-menopausal women.

If you're new to exercise and having trouble getting started, keep in mind that it doesn't have to be a daunting task. In fact, getting a daily dose of exercise may be as simple as a brisk walk through the park.

Walking to Improve Sexual Health

Irwin Goldstein, MD a urologist who is the president and director of the Institute for Sexual Medicine in San Diego, California, and a former professor of urology at Boston University School of Medicine, and his team of researchers were the first to determine that a sedentary lifestyle increases a man's risk for developing impotence.

The research published in Urology indicated that men who walked briskly for two miles a day, which burns about 200 calories, significantly reduced their risk of erectile dysfunction. "Men who exercised more than the 200 calories a day had the lowest risk of developing ED," said Goldstein, a study co-author, in a news release.

Walking for just two miles a day at a brisk pace, even if you start at mid-life, has the potential to maintain your sexual health without medical intervention, though results will depend on your current physical and sexual health status.

If you're ready to lace up your best pair of walking shoes and hit the pavement, grass, or neighborhood greenway for a two-mile trek, from start to finish, a two-mile walk should take you between 30 and 45 minutes to complete.

The key is burning a minimum of 200 calories a day and maintaining a brisk pace. As an alternative to walking, you could also participate in other heart-pumping exercises like jogging or circuit training.

Cycling, however, is controversial. Evidence is mixed on whether it contributes to ED due to blood flow restriction from the bike seat, but it does appear to cause issues like genital numbness and urinary problems, particularly if your bike doesn't fit well or you cycle more than three hours a week.

Remember, it's never too late to begin an exercise plan. If you're ready to take charge of your sexual health and start walking, we recommend this 30-Day Walking Quick Start Guide for Beginners.

What This Means For You

Erectile dysfunction is all too common among men, but engaging in regular heart-pumping physical activity may help improve your symptoms. Whether it's a brisk two-mile walk, a jog through the park, a session of circuit training, or an interval workout, regular cardiovascular exercise has the potential to prevent and even treat impotence.

While exercise alone may not be enough for everyone, it's still a great place to start. You'll reap the myriad benefits of an active lifestyle and will see improvements in your overall physical health. If you need some help getting motivated, exercising with a workout buddy like a friend or partner can keep you on track.

If you have concerns about beginning an exercise program or are unsure about which type of physical activity will work best in conjunction with your current medical treatment, consult your doctor for more advice.

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