Quote of the Day: Fertility was Higher when Bicycles were Popular

I’m normally a humble, self-effacing sort (being British, it’s probably genetic).

My girlfriend however has spoken: weeks when I cycle a lot, I have more vitality, more energy and I look better. Can there be any better reason to get on my bike?

Therefore when I heard recently that some researchers (in the USA) have tried to link cycling to male infertility (with studies dating back a decade), my natural reaction was something akin to, “WTF??” (Wouldn’t that make about half the population of Denmark, Holland, Japan and China infertile?)

“This whole [cycling-impotence] thing is really out of proportion. In China 90 percent of the male population cycles, and they don’t seem to have a problem maintaining the population.” - Dr W. D. Steers, chairman of Urology Dept., University of Virginia School of Medicine

I have to admit a double interest in this issue. I’m a man. In a relationship. Who uses a bike pretty much every day. Also, my career has included a stint as a sexual health researcher and writer, and the topic naturally still fascinates me.

As such, I know full well how closely a healthy circulation is linked to healthy erections. Heck, Viagra was originally developed as a heart disease medicine – it gets blood flowing more easily.

Indeed, bicycling looks a kinda reliable way to reduce your risk of impotence. (On that note, isn’t it likely you suffer more wear and tear in a night of passion than in a month of normal cycling? I for one would like to see a comparative analysis.)

Here for your information (and self-appraisal? :-) ) are perhaps the most common causes of impotence:
-circulation problems (heart-related)
-diabetes / obesity (weight-related)
-stress (psychological)
-age

OK, not wanting to trivialise a complex and sensitive topic, it should be kinda common sense that regularly getting around by bike keeps your heart and circulation in tip-top shape, your figure trim, and your energy levels high as someone 10 years younger. A no-brainer recipe for looking sexier, feeling sexier and enjoying a fabulous and fun love life.

So why do myths about cycling being somehow bad for you still make the rounds? This from the Independent in 2003 (suspiciously published on the eve of National Bike Week that year).

One man, Charles McCorkell, who looked into the data used in the research in this field, had this to say:

It wasn’t until a month ago, when I got a chance to see the abstracts on the studies and some of the data, that I realized that what I had believed for the last 3 years might be wrong, and what I believed for the 20 years before that might be right: Cycling is good for your sex life.

It turns out one study comparing swimmers with cyclists had picked cyclists on average 10 years older than their swimming counterparts. Adjusted for age, the results were ‘a tie’. Another study had asked men with impotence whether they felt their cycling had contributed. (Because as any doctor knows it’s so easy to self-diagnose.)

Over the last month I’ve spoken with a fairly large number of bicycle dealers, bicycle seat manufacturers and cyclists. Most of them wanted to make sure I told you about the health benefits of cycling, and how you… should be shouting from the roof tops… that everyone should be out riding bicycles because it’s good for them, good for theenvironment and it’s fun. I also heard over and over again denials about ED and stories from both riders and their partners about how cycling improves their sex life. [ibid]

This seems to be borne out by this less scaremongering article in the Guardian, via EcoVelo. Triathletes systematically cycling over 300km a week are, it reports, at risk of low sperm counts – be afraid! – but then points out that your average common-or-garden round-town bicyclists are at no risk at all. Indeed men may have been more fertile when they cycled more…

Viagra on two wheels indeed.

Sexify yourself.

3 thoughts on “Quote of the Day: Fertility was Higher when Bicycles were Popular

  1. I wonder if it might be related to riding style and time spent in the saddle? IIRC the study in the US concentrated on people that rode drop bar bikes with narrow saddles and rode fairly high mileage. This is in contrast to the relaxed upright style of most Danish and Dutch riders.

    Aaron

    • I suspect that’s it. But this seems a fairly prevalent myth – albeit one people don’t talk about – among non-cyclists. A combination perhaps also of sloppy journalism and your average lazy driver’s willingness to hear anything that allows them not to leave their beloved car.

      • Dunno…I have two children and at the time they were conceived I was riding over 6000 miles a year between commuting and racing. :-D

        Besides driving makes you fat and ugly. ;-)

        Aaron

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