Can Lack Of Exercise Cause Erectile Dysfunction And A Low Libido?
By Johnathan P Cumberwell
Yes! Lack of exercise can indeed cause erectile dysfunction and a low libido.
Why? Because exercise maintains strong bloodflow throughout your body. And in order to get erections, you need strong bloodflow.
If your bloodflow is weak because your blood is full of sugar and fat, or because your blood vessels are coated with plaque, your erections are in trouble.
The good news is that exercise can restore your bloodflow. Even if you are overweight or have never done much exercise in your life. It’s never too late.
With stronger bloodflow, it will be easier to get erections and your libido is likely to be stronger.
Let’s understand how exercise can help you overcome ED and increase your libido.
Exercise Can Boost Your Libido And Cure Your Erectile Dysfunction
We all know that exercise is something we should do. Often. We’ve been told this since we were kids.
‘They’ have told us exercise is good for our hearts and our brains, it lowers the risk of many ailments, it makes us feel better, etc.
But what you may not know, is that exercise can also have an amazing impact on your sex-life.
It can significantly improve your libido and your ability to ‘get it up’.
In fact, there is hardly any other ‘thing’ that is better for your sexual performance than exercise.
And the flip side of this? A lack of exercise is often the number one cause of ED and low libido.
Here is how it works:
In order for you to get an erection, your penis needs to be filled with blood. Then the blood pressure inside your penis needs to increase, in order to make your penis firm.
Therefore, you need proper bloodflow in order to get erections.
Anything that impedes this bloodflow is likely to have a negative effect on your ability to get and maintain erections.
And what exercise does, is to improve this crucial bloodflow. Not just in one way, but in multiple ways.
Let’s explore the different ways in which exercise can improve your bloodflow.
How Does Exercise Improve Your Bloodflow?
We can think of exercise as maintenance. And your body and mind are very complex systems that need constant maintenance.
They need exercise.
Exercise cleans up dirt, repairs and replaces broken parts, tests and troubleshoots functions, rebalances systems out of balance, optimizes performance and ensures that your engines can fire on all cylinders.
This maintenance helps improve smooth bloodflow.
Let’s take a look at the key reasons why exercise is so beneficial for improving your bloodflow, and thereby helping you overcome erectile dysfunction and improve your libido.
By exercising regularly, you normally:
Exercise Strengthens The Cardiovascular System
When you exercise, your heart and lungs work extra hard to supply blood to your muscles, organs and tissues.
Because your muscles, organs and tissues need more oxygen and nutrients for the increased effort.
With this increased level of effort, your heart, muscles, blood vessels, blood cells, etc., all grow in size or number, as these adjust to a life of increased intensity.
Your blood vessels expand and contract, they become soft and flexible, and they get trained to handle higher amounts of bloodflow.
This also improves the ability of your muscles to utilize oxygen and nutrients.
The result is that your cardiovascular system is strengthened, improved and trained to handle increased levels of blood flowing through your body.
You can now also go harder, or go longer (or both). You performance has increased.
Exercise Forms New Blood Vessels Throughout Your Body
This is referred to as angiogenesis.
Therefore as you exercise, you improve your body’s ability to transport blood.
By exercising, you get an even more complex system of highways, roads and side streets of blood vessels through which oxygen, nutrients, waste and other components can be transported.
Exercise Increases Your Blood Vessels Ability To Produce Nitric Oxide
But not only that:
The endothelium can also produce a gas called nitric oxide.
When your blood vessels need to expand in order to transport more blood, your endothelial cells produce nitric oxide, which in turn causes your blood vessels to dilate (expand).
This happens anywhere in the body.
But let’s talk about what happens in the penis.
When your penis is flaccid, there is hardly any blood in it.
However when your penis becomes erect, it gets filled with blood.
How does this blood get to the penis? What is the catalyst that makes blood rush into your penis and fill it up?
This catalyst is nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is the key that opens up the floodgates, so that blood can flow into your penis and produce an erection.
Therefore, nitric oxide is essential in order to get and maintain erections. And should you happen to produce inadequate amounts of nitric oxide, you are likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction.
So why is exercise so good for nitric oxide production?
Not only is more nitric oxide produced when you exercise, but exercise also improves the ability of the endothelium to produce nitric oxide.
Hence, exercise ensures that the endothelial cells are being maintained, pushed and tested. And in doing so, they are trained to produce even more nitric oxide than before.
So that next time nitric oxide is needed, your body can produce even more of it.
More nitric oxide = more bloodflow = better erections.
Exercise Increases Your Testosterone Production
There is also a long-term impact. Long-term, steady and patient exercise will typically also increase your baseline testosterone level.
In other words, if you exercise consistently, your steady-state testosterone level is also likely to increase.
Because this ups your ongoing, steady-state testosterone manufacturing.
The flipside of this?
Well, if you don’t exercise, you are more likely to have depressed testosterone levels. Because you no longer stimulate your testosterone production with exercise.
And if you are overweight, your testosterone levels are likely to be even more depressed.
Because fat cells contain an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme is dangerous, because it converts your testosterone to estrogen.
And the more overweight you are, the more aromatase you have, and the more testosterone you lose.
Now that your testosterone is depressed, you are likely to lose muscle. And with less muscle to burn energy, more of the calories that you eat will be stored as fat.
Which means you are likely to gain more weight. Which is likely to further reduce your testosterone.
You see the negative testosterone spiral here?
Aromatase activity by the way, is particularly prominent in abdominal fat. So if you have a ‘beer belly’, you are likely to have a good amount of aromatase activity going on.
In addition, if you are overweight, you are also likely to produce more cortisol.
Cortisol is an ‘enemy’ to your testosterone as the two ‘compete’ for the same space. So more of one often means less of the other. Therefore, with more cortisol, you are likely to have less testosterone.
But there are good news!
If you exercise and become fitter, your testosterone is likely to increase. And the more and better you exercise, the closer your testosterone will normally get to the optimal level.
And as your testosterone increases, you are likely to feel better, have more energy, you will normally experience a stronger libido, and you will likely also have stronger erections.
If you want to learn how to increase your testosterone naturally, you can check out this guide.
Exercise Improves Your Dopamine Production
Research studies have shown that most forms of exercise, but particularly aerobic moderate to vigorous exercise, increases dopamine production.
And similarly to the effect on testosterone, there is more than just a temporary jump:
Consistent and long-term exercise is able to lift your baseline dopamine level. Also, as you exercise more, you form more dopamine receptors. Now you can also process more dopamine.
Studies have also shown that excessive exercise can have a negative effect on dopamine production. Meaning that if you over-exercise, your dopamine production can slow down.
Dopamine affects a number of very important functions in your body, many of which are mood-related.
But dopamine is also essential in order to function sexually.
First of all, dopamine is the spark that sets in motion the entire process of getting an erection. Therefore you need dopamine in order to ‘get it up’.
Secondly, dopamine is also en essential element of your libido.
Therefore, if you have reduced dopamine production, you are likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction and to have a lower libido.
Exercise Burns Excess Glucose
Let’s say you’re enjoying breakfast. When the foods and drinks you consume end up in your stomach, they are broken down into various molecules that can be absorbed by your intestines.
And in your breakfast, there are probably a good chunk of carbohydrates. You are likely to break down a lot of these carbohydrates into glucose.
Glucose is a main energy source for your body.
However glucose can’t enter your cells as fuel without the help of a hormone called insulin.
Here is how insulin works:
After you eat, the glucose you made is flushed into your bloodstream.
Your blood sugar level jump up, because you now have lots of sugar (glucose) in your blood.
Now your pancreas gets to work. It starts to manufacture insulin. This insulin will enable your cells to absorb the glucose.
Any glucose that is not used as energy by the cells, is normally converted to glycogen (by insulin), and stored in your liver and muscles for later use.
If you keep on eating and drinking too many refined carbohydrates (found in most processed foods), you may constantly have excess glucose in your blood.
This is a condition called hyperglycemia.
Some of this excess glucose is then likely to get stuck to the inside walls of your blood vessels. When this gets severe, you deal with a condition called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition where glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, white blood cells, calcium and other substances, build up and form a layer of plaque inside your artery walls.
Hyperglycemia can also cause inflammation in your blood vessels
When your blood vessels get inflamed, they also normally get sticky and uneven. Which makes substances such as glucose, stick even more easily.
When you have plaque coating the inside of your blood vessels, and therefore also covering your endothelial cells, these cells normally find it harder to produce nitric oxide.
This build-up of plaque inside your blood vessels also narrows the arteries. In response to this narrowing, the arteries normally expand to ensure that the same amount of blood can travel through the arteries as before.
However, this expansion causes great strain on the arteries in the long-term, and hence they end up rupturing more easily.
The plaque also makes the arteries stiffer. Stiffer arteries are less able to expand when your body needs increased bloodflow, for instance during exercise.
Stiffer arteries are also more prone to rupture, leak and damage.
But there is more:
When a portion of plaque is ripped up and taken away by the bloodstream, this particle may cause clogging of a narrow artery somewhere else. This can also cause stroke.
If atherosclerosis gets severe enough, the blood vessels can no longer expand to counter the plaque build-up. At this point, bloodflow will start to be severely diminished.
But there is again good news. Exercise can come to the rescue.
Exercise increases the need for energy, and hence also the need for glucose.
Therefore, exercise causes the body to burn more glucose, and as a result, you are less likely to have excess glucose in your blood.
This will normally 1) reverse hyperglycemia, 2) stop the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels, and 3) start to pick apart this plaque.
Also, as you exercise, you will have more blood rushing through your veins faster. This will start to flush away some of the plaque that doesn’t hang on tight to your blood vessel walls.
As a result, you will have another force eating away at your atherosclerosis.
Let’s not forget about increased insulin sensitivity, another reason why exercise is awesome.
Exercise Makes Your Cells More Sensitive To Insulin
As we already learned, in order for cells to use glucose as energy, they need insulin. Insulin unlocks the cells so that the glucose can enter.
When there is too much glucose in your blood, your cells easily pick up all they need. Then they don’t want any more glucose.
At that point, they stop accepting the glucose offered by insulin. This is called insulin resistance.
This is not good, because you can get to a point where you have permanent excess glucose in your blood.
This is diabetes type II.
But there is again good news. Exercise can get you back in balance.
Firstly, exercise makes your body use more glucose as energy. This reduces the amount of glucose in your blood.
Secondly, exercise also makes your cells more sensitive to insulin. Which means that they become more effective at absorbing glucose.
But excess glucose causes yet another problem: Superoxide.
Exercise Preserves Your Nitric Oxide
Free radicals are highly reactive with other elements, because orbiting their nuclei, they have an unpaired electron looking for a partner.
Nitric oxide is also a free radical. Hence match made in heaven!
When superoxide spots nitric oxide, the two will normally react with each other. As a result, the nitric oxide will be eliminated.
Hence, if you have lots of superoxide floating around your blood, your nitric oxide is in danger.
So, lots of glucose = lots of superoxide = little nitric oxide.
Once again exercise can save you! Because exercise mops up excess glucose, which means that less superoxide will be formed.
Exercise Improves Your HDL / LDL Cholesterol Balance
Cholesterol has a bad reputation. It’s because it can cause cardiovascular problems. But cholesterol doesn’t necessarily deserve this bad reputation.
Because you need a healthy level of cholesterol in order to survive and live well.
Your cells use cholesterol to form their cell membranes. Cholesterol is also a precursor of steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D.
Since cholesterol is oil-based, it doesn’t mix well with your blood, which is water-based. It is therefore carried around the blood by something called lipoproteins.
There are two kinds of lipoproteins that transport cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (‘LDL’) (cholesterol carried by this type is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol), and high-density lipoprotein (‘HDL’) (cholesterol carried by this type is known as ‘good’ cholesterol).
Cholesterol carried by LDL is called ‘bad’ because it floats around the bloodstream looking for something to do. If it can’t find anything productive to do, it will often be deposited on the wall of a blood vessel as plaque.
And as we already know, this plaque buildup can have severe negative effects on your bloodflow.
Cholesterol carried by HDL is called ‘good’ because it is on its way to the liver for destruction.
If you have more ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood than you should, your blood will be thicker and flow less smoothly. Thicker blood can also contribute to higher blood pressure. Both can cause ED.
The good news is that exercise can reduce your cholesterol levels.
Research has demonstrated that exercise makes your body produce more HDL, which means you will send more cholesterol to your liver for destruction.
And exercise can also reduce your LDL count.
Therefore, exercise can both stop the buildup of plaque in your veins, and also remove it.
Also, when there is less cholesterol plaque, you have less ‘stuff’ covering your endothelial cells. Which in turn makes it easier for these cells to produce nitric oxide.
Exercise Lowers High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Either factor will required your heart to pump harder to push the blood around the body.
What causes your blood to get thicker?
When your blood contains more glucose, fat and other ‘stuff’ than it should, your blood can be more syrup-like than water. That’s how it gets thicker.
What can make your blood contain more water than it should?
Salt. When there is excess salt in your blood, your kidneys have a hard time filtering out all the water. As a result, you get excess water in your blood.
And what causes a narrowing of your arteries?
The good news?
Exercise can significantly improve or even normalize, your blood pressure.
Doing regular exercise cleans up ‘garbage’ from your blood and makes it recover its normal ‘thickness’.
When you exercise, you also need more salt, and hence more salt is absorbed from your blood. Which again makes it easier for your kidneys to filter out water.
Exercise also reduces or stops the formation of plaque buildup. And it also starts eating away of the plaque that is already there.
The result? Blood with better ‘thickness’, better water content and less plaque.
Which means better and healthier blood pressure.
Exercise Reduces Excess Triglycerides Levels
First off, what are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are basically fat.
Most of the fat we consume (butter, many oils, animal fat, etc.), come as triglycerides.
But probably just as important: Your body can produce triglycerides.
When you eat, you will normally eat more calories than you need at that very moment.
Those calories that you don’t need right away, including non-fat calories such as carbohydrates and protein, are converted into triglycerides.
These triglycerides are then stored in your fat cells. When you need energy later (between your meals), these triglycerides are released to provide energy.
If you consume more calories than you burn, you will keep storing these triglycerides and therefore gain weight as fat.
And as we already know, weight gain can lower your libido and may cause erectile dysfunction.
Also, if you have more triglycerides in your blood than you should, your blood will be thicker and hence flow less smoothly. It can also contribute to higher blood pressure and plaque buildup.
And high triglyceride levels can also cause what is called inflammatory response.
Inflammatory response is an overactive immune system that can cause damage to cells, tissues and arteries. Which can in turn further impede proper bloodflow.
Again – exercise can come to the rescue.
When you exercise, you need larger amounts of energy. Some of this energy will be taken from the foods and drinks you consume, and some from fat reserves.
Therefore, when you exercise, you will normally get a reduction of both the triglycerides that float around your blood, and the triglycerides stored as fat.
Which is likely to boost your libido.
And make it easier for you to get and maintain erections.
Let’s Not Forget About Fructose And Sucrose
In many of the points above, the focus was on glucose.
Although glucose is the most common sugar, there are also two other important ones: Fructose and sucrose.
Glucose, fructose and sucrose all contain the same number of calories, unit for unit.
Fructose is naturally found in many fruits, honey and root vegetables. It is also very often added to many food products in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
You may remember that when you consume glucose, it is absorbed directly by your intestines and then delivered immediately to your cells as energy.
Fructose on the other hand, needs first to be converted to glucose by your liver, before it can be used as energy. Therefore, it is a more complicated form of energy.
Sucrose is simply a sugar consisting of one glucose and one fructose molecule. In order for you to use sucrose as energy, it first needs to be broken into glucose and fructose.
Hence, sucrose is an even more complex source of energy.
Consuming excessive amounts of fructose or sucrose will have the very same effects as consuming excess glucose.
They are likely to make your blood thicker, increase your triglycerides levels, increase LDL cholesterol, and increase superoxide levels.
And all of these are likely to contribute to erectile dysfunction and a low libido.
The good news is that exercise will have the same positive benefits regarding fructose and sucrose, as it does on glucose.
Let me tell you about two periods of my life where I did no exercise, and how this affected my libido and erections.
My Experience With Exercise, Erectile Dysfunction And Libido
There have been a few periods of my life where I have not been able to exercise. This has been due either to physical injuries or to working too much.
During these periods, I not only got out of shape and lost muscle mass, but my libido decreased and I struggled more with erectile dysfunction.