Skipping the Gym Is Bad for Boners

...and other penis mistakes you don't want to be making.

|
Sep 27 2018, 3:30pm

I filed my first story for Vice back in 2004. It was essentially an interview with a friend’s friend who, just ten weeks prior, had broken his dick during sexual intercourse. I’m here to tell you that while breaking one’s bone upon re-entry is the most sudden and catastrophic way to damage a penis, a surprising amount of other, equally pernicious ways exist. If you own and/or use a penis, take heed.

Disuse

According to Harvard Medical School’s report “Sex and the Prostate,” healthy erections, are a “use-it-or-lose-it” kind of thing. The reports authors noticed that: “Some research suggests that when the penis is flaccid for long periods of time—and therefore deprived of a lot of oxygen-rich blood—the low oxygen level causes some muscle cells to lose their flexibility and gradually change into something akin to scar tissue. This scar tissue seems to interfere with the penis’ ability to expand when it’s filled with blood.” While the report didn’t prescribe an ideal masturbatory regimen, a later Harvard study found that men who ejaculated 21 times per month were less likely to develop prostate cancer. It’s thought that the five or six spontaneous erections men get per night serve as nocturnal exercise that keeps the blood vessels of the penis in good working order, says Michael Reitano, New York City-based internist and sexual health specialist. “Even after prostate surgery, penile rehabilitation might incorporate Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs to accelerate the return of penile function,” he adds.

Using a Death Grip

Before you dive headlong into a rigorous sex or masturbation regimen, you may want to give your technique some thought. Sex columnist Dan Savage is credited with coining the term “death grip syndrome” way back in 2003, writing, “If you masturbate in the exact same way every time, or if you hold your cock in a death grip every time, you may find it difficult to climax as the result of other, more subtle sensations.” The move is to switch up how you jerk off by expanding the range of sensations that you subject your guy to. You could check out some different types of lube, invest in a masturbation sleeve, or look into one of the many vibrating toys for men now on the market.

Drinking too much

Whiskey dick: It’s a thing, although too much of any alcohol can have the same effect. The droop is caused by alcohol’s penchant for desensitizing and slowing reaction time. “[One] drink may diminish inhibitions and allow a more relaxed attitude and facilitate intimacy,” Reitano says. “Drinking two or more drinks, however, will diminish sensations and make achieving and maintaining an erection to orgasm more difficult.” Over the longer term, it can affect hormone levels, too. Not only do you wind up with a beer belly, but according to a report in Strength and Conditioning Journal, guzzling the equivalent of five or more drinks appears to suppress the production of testosterone which will compromise your erections. Having said that, smaller amounts of booze (one to two drinks per day) appear to have little or no immediate effect on testosterone. One 2016 study actually found that people who consumed more flavonoids (found in abundance in red wine) had a lower incidence of ED.

Avoiding the gym

An erection happens when blood flows to the penis faster than it flows out. The heart is what’s pumping the blood around your body, so it stands to reason that a healthy heart is associated with a healthy erection. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine tested that hypothesis. They looked at 300 men and found that those who exercised the most reported the highest sexual function, including erection and orgasm quality. Specifically, the guys who had 18 METS, or metabolic equivalents, per week, reported the best sex. (METS are measures of the amount of energy spent on an activity.) Eighteen METS work out to two hours of strenuous cardio like running or swimming or three-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise per week. Another boon for gym rats: Stress and anxiety have been the death knell for many an erection and exercise is a proven stress and anxiety reducer.

Forgoing caffeine

A 2015 study showed that men who drank two to three cups of coffee per day were 39 percent less likely to report having erectile dysfunction than non-coffee drinkers. It might make sense, since coffee consumption has been linked to cardiovascular health and, as I mentioned above, achieving and maintaining an erection is often connected to how efficiently blood is being pumped around the body.


Watch this from VICE:


“While caffeine can exert the same effect as viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications that are phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, it is probably caffeine's effect on the blood vessels of the penis that keeps all the tissues well oxygenated and healthy in the long run,” Reitano explains. Indeed, the study’s authors wrote: “Caffeine triggers a series of pharmacological effects that lead to the relaxation of the penile helicine arteries, and the cavernous smooth muscle that lines cavernosal spaces, thus increasing penile blood flow.” I like to think of it this way: The blood vessels that deliver blood to your penis are like a lot of hoses you want to push fluid through, and coffee is a hose unkinker of sorts.

Being dehydrated

Another liquid that can help put the lead back in one’s penis—water. Sure, it doesn’t sound like high octane boner fuel, but it’s as important to a youthful erection as it is every other bodily function you can think of. But there’s more to it than that. In a dehydrated state, the body produces a greater amount of angiotensin, a blood-pressure raising hormone that is often found in men experiencing having difficulty achieving collegiate erections.

Smoking

A 2013 study has shown that if you’re a smoker, quitting will result in thicker, firmer, faster erections. To test the study participants’ erections, researchers used something called a penile plethysmograph, which measured changes in circumference and hardness while the subjects watched porn. During the 8-week study, the 31 percent of participants who had successfully quit smoking had fuller erections than before. And 75 percent of the quitters who suffered ED at the beginning of the study no longer did by the end.

Neglecting your manscaping

Looking your best helps you function at your best. It’s true in the rest of your life and it’s just as true—if not more so—when you’re engaging in sex. Indeed many studies have shown a strong association between a positive self-image and increased sexual satisfaction. A short term solution is to trim down an excess of bush. You needn’t go all Ken doll, but some modest manicuring may reveal an extra inch of shaft that’s being unnecessarily obscured by fuzz.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Tonic delivered to your inbox.