Study should help quell fears instilled in female cyclists after several studies suggested cycling could cause sexual, urinary dysfunction.
A new study now suggests that women who bicycle more have better sex lives.
However, researchers say that the improved sexual function came at a small price. Female cyclists were more likely to get bladder infections and saddle sores.
The new research should help to quell fears instilled in female cyclists after several small studies suggested a link between cycling and sexual and urinary dysfunction.
Instead, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found that women who rode bicycles actually had better sexual function than other athletes that acted as controls for the study.
Unlike past concerns, women who biked were only at risk for urinary tract infections, saddle sores and some genital numbness in the study's short term.
However, the authors did note that these could eventually contribute to other sexual function issues later in life.
The study says that while peddling away, most of the body weight is squarely (and narrowly) supported by the perineum, and, according to a Harvard health blog, that position cuts off blood flow to the clitoris and labia (the penis suffers the same deprivation in men).
That constricted blood flow explains the numbness some people experience after a particularly long bike ride, but some research has suggested the damage is more long-lasting.
The friction and pressure of the bicycle seat against the genitals and buttocks did mean that women who rode – even at a 'low-intensity' level – were more to get saddle sores and numbness.
A healthy vagina has many diverse bacteria living in it, but repetitive up-and-down motions of the legs while riding a bike while confined against the seat can push more of the bacteria into the urinary tract.
The study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, confirmed that the cycling cycle did raise the risks of urinary tract infections for female bikers.
But riding had quite the opposite effect on overall sexual function.