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Does Running Help With Erectile Dysfunction?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Rachel Sacks

Updated 12/08/2022

Dealing with erectile dysfunction (ED) isn’t fun. This condition can negatively affect not only your sex life but, your romantic relationships, too. So it’s understandable that you’d want to find a way to stop erectile dysfunction from happening. What would you say if we told you there may be a relationship between running and erectile dysfunction?

It’s well-known that regular exercise has many, many health benefits, improving both physical and mental health. What if reducing ED is another benefit of aerobic exercise — in particular, running? Could some simple cardio be the ED solution you’ve been searching for?

We’ll explore the connection between running and ED and determine if running helps sexual dysfunction.

To better understand the relationship between running and erectile dysfunction and how one might benefit the other, it’s important to know the basics of ED.

If you’ve ever been unable to get or maintain an erection that was firm enough for penetrative sex, you’ve dealt with erectile dysfunction.

Or, if you’ve never been able to get an erection when you engage in sexual activity, your erection doesn’t last during sex or you’re unable to get an erection at any time, that’s also ED.

Wondering if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction? Our article on how to know if you have ED can help you find some answers.

How erections work is fairly interesting. When you’re sexually aroused, your brain sends chemical messages to the penis, which then cause the muscles of the corpora cavernosa (two erectile chambers that run along the sides of your penis and contain blood vessels) to relax letting blood flow into the tissue.

Erectile dysfunction can happen as an isolated incident or at the same time as other forms of sexual dysfunction, such as a low sex drive, premature ejaculation or anorgasmia (difficulty reaching orgasm).

There are many causes of erectile dysfunction — from psychological issues (mental health or performance anxiety) to physical health.

Other causes and risk factors for ED include:

  • Prostate problems

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol levels

  • Sleep disorders

  • Smoking

Two other causes? Health issues such as being overweight or obese and not enough physical activity.

There are several treatment options for erectile dysfunction. Your healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, or PDE5 inhibitors, with Viagra® (which contains the active ingredient sildenafil) being the most well-known.

They may also recommend lifestyle changes like exercise and weight loss to help reduce ED.

So, if physical activity can help reduce the chances of erectile dysfunction, what is the specific connection between running and erectile dysfunction? Are there benefits, disadvantages or both to running for erectile dysfunction?

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As mentioned above, regular exercise's benefits are numerous. Aerobic exercise specifically — “with oxygen” exercises like swimming, cycling and, yes, running — improves cardiovascular health, decreases the risk of heart or cardiovascular disease, helps maintain a healthy weight, lowers blood pressure and more.

All of these benefits are also factors that can contribute to a higher chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction. But what about running and erectile dysfunction, specifically?

According to a study published in The American Journal of Cardiology, aerobic activity — like running — may help improve ED.

Running can increase circulation which improves blood flow throughout the body as well as blood vessel health. 

Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and vascular disease can affect blood flow and result in ED. 

Running can help improve or keep these medical conditions at bay and may also improve erectile dysfunction.

Another 2018 review found that people who practiced aerobic exercise four times a week saw improvements in erectile dysfunction.

Choose your chew

While there are multiple benefits to aerobic exercise like running, there are other exercises that may reduce erectile dysfunction.

Exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can help those with ED. The pelvic floor muscles help to sustain blood flow to the penis and maintain erections.

The pelvic floor muscles do this by putting pressure on the penile veins, which prevents blood from leaving the area and making an erection possible.

Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles by targeting the muscles at the bottom of the pelvis. 

And while testosterone levels may or may not have a role in erectile dysfunction, physical activity can help — just not solely running. No evidence has been found that cardio (such as running) has much of an impact, but too much may reduce levels of testosterone.

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Dealing with erectile dysfunction can be frustrating. Fortunately, there are ways to treat ED through oral medication as well as therapy.

Adopting healthy habits like regular exercise can also help improve erectile dysfunction. 

Aerobic exercise — including running — can help you manage weight, improve cardiovascular health and more. 

14 Sources

  1. Benefits of Physical Activity Physical Activity. (n.d.). CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
  2. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  3. Erection & Ejaculation: How Does It Work. (2020, November 27). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10036-erection-ejaculation-how-it-occurs
  4. Erectile Dysfunction. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/erectile-dysfunction
  5. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  6. Aerobic Exercise Health: What Is It, Benefits & Examples. (2019, July 16). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7050-aerobic-exercise
  7. Begot, I., Peixoto, T. C., Gonzaga, L. R., Bolzan, D. W., Papa, V., Carvalho, A. C., Arena, R., Gomes, W. J., & Guizilini, S. (2015). A home-based walking program improves erectile dysfunction in men with an acute myocardial infarction. The American journal of cardiology, 115(5), 571–575. Retrieved from ​​https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25727080/
  8. Exercise and your arteries. (n.d.). Harvard Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/exercise-and-your-arteries
  9. Silva, A. B., Sousa, N., Azevedo, L. F., & Martins, C. (2017). Physical activity and exercise for erectile dysfunction: systematic review and meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine, 51(19), 1419–1424. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27707739/
  10. Geraerts, I., Van Poppel, H., Devoogdt, N., De Groef, A., Fieuws, S., & Van Kampen, M. (2016). Pelvic floor muscle training for erectile dysfunction and climacturia 1 year after nerve sparing radical prostatectomy: a randomized controlled trial. International journal of impotence research, 28(1), 9–13. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26538105/
  11. Meldrum, D. R., Burnett, A. L., Dorey, G., Esposito, K., & Ignarro, L. J. (2014). Erectile hydraulics: maximizing inflow while minimizing outflow. The journal of sexual medicine, 11(5), 1208–1220. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24521101/
  12. Kegel Exercises for Men: How & Why To Do Them. (2021, November 22). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22211-kegel-exercises-for-men
  13. Wheeler, G. D., Singh, M., Pierce, W. D., Epling, W. F., & Cumming, D. C. (1991). Endurance training decreases serum testosterone levels in men without change in luteinizing hormone pulsatile release. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 72(2), 422–425. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1899423/
  14. Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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