Given that ED isn't openly spoken about, it can feel like an isolating experience but it doesn't have to be. There are simple and effective ways to treat erectile dysfunction (that's where Pilot comes in!) that will help ensure that your sex life, and in turn, you, are happy and healthy.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction essentially refers to not being able to obtain or keep an erection and is often coupled with a reduced desire for sex. ED can have a range of causes, both physical and psychological. Certain risk factors for developing erectile dysfunction can include:
- General ageing
- Conditions affecting cardiovascular health like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol
- Experiencing an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Cardiovascular disease
Like many health conditions, erectile dysfunction can cause a lot of stress or shame, which doesn't help and can often exacerbate the problem further. So, there are two important things to keep in mind:
First, you’re not alone (even if it’s not a common topic of conversation with your mates) and there shouldn't be any stigma involved in getting help for this.
Second, there is a range of medically reviewed, evidence-based options for treating ED. The best part? You can start today.
What are the treatment options for ED?
Pilot can help you on your journey with erectile dysfunction, with a prescription plan that is personalised for you by one of our Australian doctors and delivered to your door discreetly.
The process is incredibly easy, with an initial text-based doctor consultation, followed by the fast delivery of your personalised meds and free check-ups with your doctor to ensure the treatment is working for you.
Alongside your doctor-prescribed treatment, you might also want to consider other holistic ways to manage your health, which in turn, help with the ED experience. One of these options is through various forms of exercise.
Can exercise alleviate erectile dysfunction?
You probably already know that aerobic exercise is associated with a range of overall health benefits like weight loss, preventing vascular disease and improving mental health, but did you know that exercise is the lifestyle factor most strongly associated with erectile function and sexual health?
Recent studies have found that even if medication is used as part of treating erectile dysfunction, it's way more likely to be effective if lifestyle changes are also addressed.
If we think more broadly about blood flow, aerobic exercises improve circulation in the entire body, including the penis. This is backed up by a whole heap of medically reviewed research.
An international meta-analysis reviewed all peer-reviewed studies involving erectile dysfunction and aerobic exercises to really hone in on the specifics of this connection. That is, to find out actually how much and what type of exercise is needed to see the benefits.
The good news is that the medically reviewed research suggests physical activity with a moderate to high intensity completed for 40 minutes, four times a week can result in a significant improvement of ED symptoms, as well as preventing cardiovascular disease.
For some people, it can even reverse erectile dysfunction altogether, causing people to return to normal erectile function, all while improving cardiovascular health! Living a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise is a win all-round.
To get specific, mild to moderate aerobic exercise can be defined as the kind of movement that warms you up, makes you sweat a little, and gets your heart rate and blood vessels pumping. So less of a leisurely stroll, and more of a jog.
But moderation is key: it's not necessary (or recommended!) to suddenly launch into a workout program that's designed for an Olympic athlete.
To ensure any lifestyle changes are sustainable and realistic, start slow and work your way up.
Choose activities you enjoy so the focus is staying motivated and having fun, instead of improving erectile dysfunction or improving cardiovascular health (those are just bonuses).
And when it comes to erectile dysfunction, exercises don't only look like going for a jog or riding a bike.
What about Kegel exercises?
A lot of women may be familiar with Kegels, as these are often recommended after childbirth, and are named after Dr. Kegel (yep, he was a real person!) who studied and practised sexual medicine in the 1940s.
He discovered that exercises involving pelvic floor muscles were helpful to treat incontinence in women.
Since then, it's been discovered that men can benefit from these exercises to improve erectile function, and they are now recommended by a range of medical associations and experts for people developing ED.
But first things first: what is a kegel?
Say hello to your pelvic floor muscles
In general, there are three main pelvic floor muscles that are used when performing a kegel:
- The Bulbocavernosus muscle is involved in squeezing semen or urine out of the urethra, as well as pumping blood flow into the penile veins to maintain an erection
- The Pubococcygeus muscle, which forms a large part of the pelvic floor, plays a major role in urination, and is contracted during orgasm
- The Iliococcygeus muscle, involved in contracting the anus back up after a bowel movement
At first glance, much of the above might seem like involuntary bodily movements, and a lot of the time, they are. But for people experiencing erectile dysfunction, these processes often aren't functioning properly.
This is where Kegels come in: they are pelvic floor exercises that help strengthen these muscles, leading to pelvic floor activation, and can improve erectile function.
Kegel exercise tips for treating erectile dysfunction
Compared to aerobic exercise like jumping on a treadmill, performing pelvic floor muscle exercises are super discreet. In fact, the pelvic floor muscles aren't visible — but you'll feel them!
The first step is identifying what we actually mean by a 'pelvic floor'. Activating pelvic floor muscles can be achieved by trying to stop the flow of urine when you're urinating — those are the same muscles involved in erectile function.
You'll know you're activating pelvic floor muscles if you feel the contraction more towards the front of your body than the back.
Once you feel comfortable with this feeling, you can incorporate this into a daily routine of performing pelvic floor exercises. It won't take long, and will soon feel like second nature.
How to practice contractions
Follow these steps to properly engage your pelvic floor muscles:
- Choose a position. Lying on your back on a comfortable mat, knees bent, is a good place to start, even placing your hands on your lower abdomen to make sure you're contracting the right muscles. Make sure you have your feet flat on the floor. Once you're comfortable performing kegel exercises, you can try the rest of the steps while sitting or standing.
- Contract and relax. Think of this as pelvic floor muscle training.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles for three to five seconds
- Relax for three to five seconds
- Repeat this contract and relax cycle 10 times
3. Keep everything else relaxed. Make sure you aren't inadvertently tensing your glutes, abs or leg muscles — it's only the pelvic muscles we want to engage. And remember to breathe!
4. Extend the time. Gradually increase the length of contractions and relaxations. Work your way up from three to five seconds, to 10.
5. Aim high. Set a goal of 30 to 40 kegel exercises per day for optimal erectile dysfunction treatment. It might sound like a lot, but you can do them while driving, standing on the train, or waiting for the kettle to boil.
6. Mix it up. Along with the longer pelvic floor exercises, try practising short contractions (two to three seconds) as well, to ensure pelvic muscles are regularly activated.
Other exercises that complement the Kegel
Once you've mastered the kegel, try the following Pilates exercises:
- Knee fallouts. Start by lying down, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Clench your lower pelvic muscles, and lower one knee sideways towards the floor. Repeat five times on each knee.
- Supine foot raises. These might not sound like a penis-related exercise, because they're not, but it helps with pelvic floor activation. Start in the knee fallout pose, then slowly raise one foot, keeping your torso still. Slowly lower, and repeat with the other leg.
- Pelvic curl. You might know these as bridges, and this one also starts with the same technique of lying on your back, legs hip-width apart. Squeeze and lift your buttocks in the air, keeping your hip width stable, tensing the pelvic floor muscles. Slowly lower, and repeat.
Tips for maximising the sexual benefits of Kegel exercises
Having a healthy sex life and enjoying sexual activity is a normal, enjoyable part of living. Regular pelvic exercises can improve sexual performance by preventing premature ejaculation, help maintain an erection and even eliminate ED.
With regular pelvic floor exercises, your pelvic floor muscles will strengthen, and your sexual health can improve.
If you have a partner, involve them in treatment by discussing your sexual function with them. Include them in physical activity, even if it's starting with a home-based walking program.
While the ED experience might feel overwhelming, know that there are medically backed treatment options available for erectile dysfunction.
ED is an extremely common issue and it doesn't have to be the end of your sex life. It can be treated, and even reversed, with a little help.
Reach out to Pilot today and start your ED treatment in a matter of days.
Photo Credit: Getty Images