Sexual Health Q&A

Can exercise help with erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Yes. In addition to other health benefits, regular exercise can help men with their erections.

Exercise is good for the circulatory system. It keeps blood flowing smoothly throughout the body.

This is especially important for erections. When a man is sexually stimulated, his penis fills with blood. This blood gives him the firmness he needs for sexual activity. Once he ejaculates, the blood flows out of the penis and back into the rest of his body.

Without adequate blood flow, erection problems can occur. In some cases, the erection is weak. In others, the man is unable to have an erection at all.

Sometimes, blood flow problems develop because of damage to the endothelium or penile smooth muscle – tissues in the penis that are important for normal erections. This damage may be the result of high blood pressure or smoking. It can also happen if a man has high cholesterol, triglyceride, or blood sugar levels.

Once the endothelium or smooth muscle becomes damaged, the penis may not function normally, even with adequate blood flow.  Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is also more likely to develop. Plaque builds up on the artery walls, which can slow down or completely block blood flow.

Since the arteries in the penis are very small, often ED is one of the first signs of damage resulting from other medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Exercise does more than improve penile blood flow, however. Staying fit keeps a man’s weight under control, may increase his testosterone levels, and boosts his confidence. It can also reduce depression and anxiety. These factors can affect erections as well as other aspects of sexual health.

How much exercise does a man need? The answer depends on his individual health. Seeing a doctor is recommended before starting any exercise program. With a doctor’s guidance, a man can choose the types of exercise that are best for him.