They may leave little to the imagination, but no, your bike shorts do not represent a high risk to your urological health.
Still, some men may be concerned about the effects of cycling on their prostate health, due to research that has associated prostate issues with heavy cycling. A 2017 report shared in Cycling Weekly, for example, determined a higher rate of prostate cancer among men who trained at least eight hours a week, compared with those who trained less than 3.75 hours.
Meanwhile, other studies have examined the effects of cycling on fertility, with mixed outcomes.
Bottom line: These studies should not prevent men from getting on a bike and exercising. In fact, the benefits of cycling likely outweigh the risks. Men should, however, follow some easy precautions to maintain good prostate and reproductive health – as well as overall health – when cycling.
Let’s explore the precautions, and cycling benefits, by putting the research into perspective with some healthy facts.
Fact 1: Cycling may decrease chances of advanced prostate cancer
A 2018 study published in the National Library of Medicine found that men who cycled vigorously – 25 minutes of high-intensity cycling a day, on average – were 30% less likely to develop advanced prostate cancer, and 25% of the men were less likely to develop fatal prostate cancer. It has been found that intense cycling can increase the levels of prostate-specific antigens (PSA) in the blood for 24 hours, which could alter the PSA test results among men tested soon after a hard workout. Precaution: Repetitive compression from the bicycle seat can contribute to inflammation, a risk factor for cancer. So, extra cushioning from a soft seat and a low-inflammation diet can help offset this risk.
Fact 2: Regular cycling does not mean no babies
A 2013 study linked cycling with the possibility of higher male infertility risks. However, it also concluded that while sperm concentrations were reduced among men who rode at least five hours a week, the results did not indicate a difference in terms of actual fertility. More recent research has correlated high temperatures around the testicles with reduced sperm count. Precaution: Wear loose-fitting bike shorts to avoid overheating. Men who experience discomfort, numbness in their genitals, swelling, or other side effects while cycling should take a bike break and mix in other forms of exercise.
Fact 3: Cycling is good for your health
The healthier the body, the better all of it functions. Research suggests that men who are more physically active are less likely to experience an enlarged prostate. Further, men who perform three hours of rigorous outdoor activity per week were 20% less likely to develop erectile dysfunction. Aerobic exercise has also been found to reduce discomfort from chronic prostatitis, or swelling of the prostate gland. Precaution: Men who are new to exercise should approach it gradually to reduce chances of injury and discouragement. Men with health conditions should consult a doctor before embarking on a new exercise regime.
Fact 4: Your urologist can provide level-headed guidance
If you want to start a cycling regimen or are already an avid cyclist and have concerns about possible links to your urologic and reproductive health, make an appointment to consult with your urologist. A comprehensive exam of the prostate, including a PSA test, as well as a fertility test, can serve as a baseline of health and inform decisions regarding a good workout. Precaution: Don’t put off a visit with your urologist if you are experiencing discomfort or difficulties while urinating. This may be a symptom of a prostate condition.
And never forget – when getting on a bike, think about your upper half too, and always wear a helmet!
To learn more about prostate health and fertility, visit our dedicated men’s health page.