Exercise is associated with better erectile function in men under 40 as evaluated by the International Index of Erectile Function

J Sex Med. 2012 Feb;9(2):524-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02560.x. Epub 2011 Dec 6.


Introduction: Studies have shown an association between erectile dysfunction and sedentary lifestyle in middle-aged men, with a direct correlation between increased physical activity and improved erectile function. Whether or not this relationship is present in young, healthy men has yet to be demonstrated.

Aim: The aim of this study was to assess the association between physical activity and erectile function in young, healthy men.

Main outcome measures: The primary end points for our study were: (i) differences in baseline scores of greater than one point per question for the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF); (ii) differences in baseline scores of greater than one point per question for each domain of the IIEF; (iii) exercise energy expenditure; and (iv) predictors of dysfunction as seen on the IIEF.

Methods: The participants were men between the ages of 18 and 40 years old at an academic urology practice. Patients self-administered the Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire and the IIEF. Patients were stratified by physical activity into two groups: a sedentary group (≤1,400 calories/week) and an active group (>1,400 calories/week). Men presenting for the primary reason of erectile dysfunction or Peyronie's disease were excluded.

Results: Seventy-eight patients had complete information in this study: 27 patients (34.6%) in the sedentary group (≤1,400 kcal/week) and 51 patients (65.4%) in the active group (>1,400 kcal/week). Sedentary lifestyle was associated with increased dysfunction in the following domains of the IIEF: erectile function (44.4% vs. 21.6%, P = 0.04), orgasm function (44.4% vs. 17.7%, P = 0.01), intercourse satisfaction (59.3% vs. 35.3%, P = 0.04), and overall satisfaction (63.0% vs. 35.3%, P = 0.02). There was a trend toward more dysfunction in the sedentary group for total score on the IIEF (44.4% vs. 23.5%, P = 0.057), while sexual desire domain scores were similar in both groups (51.9% vs. 41.2%, P = 0.37).

Conclusions: We have demonstrated that increased physical activity is associated with better sexual function measured by a validated questionnaire in a young, healthy population. Further studies are needed on the long-term effects of exercise, or lack thereof, on erectile function as these men age.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Penile Erection / physiology*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Young Adult