Exercising with erectile dysfunction
Including regular exercise in your day-to-day life – just 30 minutes a day – is important if you want to achieve and maintain erections and enjoy a healthy love life.
For starters, physical activity can significantly improve poor circulation, which is one of the key causes of erection problems. It also stimulates the production of testosterone and can boost self-esteem.
You should always consult your doctor or your practice nurse, if you've never exercised before, or have any concerns.
So how do you go about making physical activity part of your life? Start by gradually increasing the amount you do as part of your daily routine – for example, walking more, putting more effort into household and garden chores. The ultimate aim is to build up to 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. But don’t worry if you can’t achieve 30 minutes straight away – start with 10 minutes, twice a day and build it up when you feel ready. See below for 5 ways to inject more activity into a typical day.
If you like to have structure and routine in your life, you may prefer to allot specific times to exercise and do something more formal, such as a regular swim or walk, or a fitness class. Again, the aim is to work up to 30 minutes per day of aerobic activity, 5 days per week.
Here’s an idea of how many calories you burn doing some common activities...
- A 14 stone man will burn 300 calories walking at a fairly leisurely 20 minutes per mile pace for 60 minutes
- A 12.5 stone man will burn 530 calories swimming breaststroke for 40 minutes
- A 10.5 stone woman will burn 400 calories cycling at 10-12 mph for 1 hour
Top tips: Get off the bus one stop earlier to start with, then, as you get fitter, get off two stops earlier, then three stops earlier. Soon you won’t need to bother with the bus at all!
5 ways to inject more activity into a typical day
- Walk every journey you make that’s under half a mile
- Hide the remote control and get up to change TV channels
- Never email a colleague in the same building. Go and talk to them!
- Wash the car yourself instead of paying someone else to do it
- Stand up, and walk around if possible, when you are on the phone
Taking it further
If your fitness level allows you to increase your activity level to more than 30 minutes per day, that’s great – you’ll reap more benefits of exercise by doing more, more often. The body is very good at adapting to the physical demands you place upon it – and it’s only by moving the goalposts a little further away every now and again that you can make further fitness gains.
But don’t overdo it. Excessive hard exercise can actually decrease testosterone levels, leading to a weaker sex drive! Moderation is key.
There are three ways you can progress your exercise training, nicely summed up by the acronym FIT.
F for frequency: you can exercise more often.
I for intensity: you can push yourself harder during exercise.
T for time: you can increase the duration of your workouts.
Top tip: Pick just one letter at a time to work on! Don’t try to increase the duration and intensity of an exercise activity all at once.
5 tips for exercising safely
- Always warm up before exercising. This involves mobilising the joints with gentle bending, extending and rotating movements and raising the heart rate and body temperature through easy-paced aerobic activity (Marching on the spot will do fine). If you are very stiff, a warm shower or bath can help start the process.
- Exercise ‘little and often’ if you find it challenging. You can gradually work towards longer blocks of activity as you get fitter.
- It’s normal to have some soreness/fatigue after exercise but if you’re in pain, rather than discomfort, seek advice.
- Don’t continue with any exercise that is causing severe pain.
- Monitor how your body responds to exercise so you can adjust accordingly. Do you have more energy for afternoon sessions? Do you need to give yourself longer to build up the duration of your workouts?
Dealing with stress
Erectile dysfunction may sometimes be caused by mental or social problems. It’s a complicated relationship though: in some cases, experiencing ED can cause emotional distress, anxiety and stress while in others, the stress itself is at the root of the ED. The good news is that regular physical activity can have a rapid effect on feelings of stress as well as helping you cope with it more effectively in the long term. But there are other actions you can take to address your mental health and mood, too. Some have an immediate effect (ideal for when you are about to lose your rag!) while others, practised long-term, can have a lasting impact on mood and stress levels.
Try this! Calming breath
When we are feeling stressed, our breathing often becomes more shallow and rapid. Sometimes, we even hold our breath. A few deep breaths can make you feel instantly calmer. Here’s how to do it:
Lying, standing or sitting, start by letting all the air out of your lungs, breathing out through the mouth (a big sigh). Now place your hands just below your ribcage on your tummy and breathe in through your nose, pushing your hands out with your tummy. Imagine you are inflating your stomach! Pause for at least a second, a little longer if possible, and then slowly and steadily let the air out through your mouth, feeling your tummy subside beneath your fingers. Try to make the exhalation last longer than the inhalation. Repeat 3-5 times and then breathe normally for a few moments before resuming what you were doing.
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