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Managing Erectile Dysfunction Through Lifestyle Changes : Exercise and Diet

  1. Introduction

    1. Definition of Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

      Erectile dysfunction is a condition affecting men and is defined as the persistent inability to attain or maintain penile erection sufficient enough for satisfactory sex. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Impotence”.

      Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common medical condition that reduces the quality of life in men.(1)

    2. Overview of Conventional Erectile Dysfunction Treatments

      Erectile dysfunction (ED) might affect up to 20 million individuals in the United States. (2) The prevalence of this medical condition is over 50% in those over 50 years of age and it increases with the person’s age.

      Since the discovery that the drug sildenafil, or Viagra, affected erections, the awareness that erectile dysfunction can be treated, has increased. There are various conventional treatments available for treating ED which include medications, vacuum treatment, and surgical treatment. However, people having a problem with their sexual performance should consult with their doctor to know about the best treatment for their condition.

      Apart from the conventional ED treatments, making some lifestyle changes, such as exercising and taking a proper diet can help manage erectile dysfunction.

    3. Purpose of the Article

      The primary purpose of this article is to explore the role of lifestyle changes in managing erectile dysfunction. As we read further, we can know about how lifestyle factors impact Erectile dysfunction, know about the role of exercise and diet in managing erectile dysfunction, and how lifestyle factors when integrated with conventional treatment work in improving the condition of Erectile dysfunction in men.

  2. The Impact of Lifestyle Factors on Erectile Dysfunction

    1. Overview of Lifestyle Factors That Contribute To Erectile Dysfunction, Such As Sedentary Behavior and Unhealthy Diets

      Erectile dysfunction is linked to various lifestyle factors. Some of these factors that contribute to ED include, sedentary behavior or inactivity, unhealthy diets, excessive alcohol intake, and smoking, Making specific changes, like increasing physical activity, taking a healthy diet, and reducing alcohol consumption and smoking have been associated with the amelioration of erectile function.

    2. How Lifestyle Factors Can Impact Erectile Dysfunction and Its Underlying Causes

      Lifestyle and nutrition are the most recognized factors that influence both vascular NO production and also erectile function. Additionally, it has also been suggested that certain lifestyles and habits that reduce low-grade clinical inflammation can also have a role in reducing the burden of sexual dysfunction.(3)

      Both, basic as well as clinical studies have shown that targeting specific lifestyle factors, which are commonly associated with erectile dysfunction, such as a sedentary lifestyle or limited physical activity, obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking, can have potential effects on the improvement of erectile function and also testosterone levels.( 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) Thus, checking on these lifestyle factors can prevent the progression of Erectile dysfunction.

      The most common underlying causes of erectile dysfunction are stress, anxiety, diabetes, and hypertension. If a man is experiencing any problem in life that is leading to mental and emotional stress, it can also take a toll on sexual function and contribute to erectile dysfunction. Similarly, patients who have diabetes and hypertension, also suffer from Erectile dysfunction.

      A study conducted in 2017 and published in ‘Diabetes Medicine” has found that more than half of men with diabetes develop erectile dysfunction.(10)

      Treating these underlying causes of Erectile dysfunction can also help in treating erectile dysfunction. Exercising can manage stress and taking a proper diabetic diet and following the prescription treatment can reduce diabetes and this can also impact lowering the symptoms of Erectile dysfunction somehow.

  3. The Role of Exercise in Managing Erectile Dysfunction

    1. Overview of the Benefits Of Exercise For Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

      Physical activity or exercise plays a major role in ED treatment. A meta-analysis regarding exercise and erectile dysfunction has shown that moderate and high-level of physical activities were associated with a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction.(11) Many prospective investigations have shown that physical activity benefits in preventing and/or improving symptoms of ED.(12, 13, 14)

      In patients suffering from hypertension along with erectile dysfunction, an exercise training of 8 weeks long (45-60 minutes a day) had improved Erectile dysfunction when compared with the control group who remained sedentary during the same period.(15)

      The mechanisms by which physical activity ameliorates erectile dysfunction are improved cardiovascular fitness and endothelial dysfunction, an increase in endothelial-derived NO, and a decrease in oxidative stress.(16, 17, 18) Apart from this, exercise also showed beneficial effects on mental health and self-esteem(19), with a positive impact on various psychological problems linked with ED.

    2. Types of Exercise Recommended For Managing Erectile Dysfunction

      Kegel Exercises To Manage Erectile Dysfunction

      Kegel exercises are the ones that can help in reducing Erectile dysfunction by strengthening the perineal muscle and also by increasing the flow of blood to the penis.

      A study from the University of the West in the U.K. has shown that pelvic exercises helped 40% of men with erectile dysfunction regain normal erectile function.(20) Additional research suggests that pelvic muscle training might help in treating erectile dysfunction and also other pelvic health issues. Pelvic floor exercises are commonly known as Kegel exercises and these exercises improve the strength of the pelvic floor muscles. Though women perform these exercises in preparation for and to regain muscle tone after their childbirth, these exercises can also benefit men, especially in strengthening the bulbocavernosus muscle. This muscle has three roles; it allows the penis to engorge with blood during an erection, the muscle pumps during ejaculation, and also helps in emptying the urethra after urination.

      To perform the kegel exercises, you first need to locate the muscles of the pelvic floor and this can be done by stopping your stream several times in the middle of urination. The muscles that you clench while doing this, are the muscles of the pelvic floor on which you need to exercise. To perform a rep of Kegel exercises, you have to squeeze those muscles, hold for around five seconds and then relax. This has to be repeated 10 to 20 times, at least twice or thrice a day.

      Aerobic Exercise To Manage Erectile Dysfunction

      Working the muscles beyond the pelvic floor can also help combat Erectile dysfunction. A study published in The American Journal of Cardiology suggests that aerobic exercise can help in improving erectile dysfunction.(21)

      Erectile dysfunction is mainly caused by blood flow issues to the penis. Diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and vascular diseases can affect the flow of blood to the penis and cause Erectile dysfunction. Adding aerobic exercise to your daily routine can help in improving your overall health and this might lead to improvements in erectile dysfunction.

      Even brisk walking for 30 minutes every day, three to four times a week, can change your cardiovascular health and have a positive impact on your Erectile dysfunction.

    3. Importance of Incorporating Exercise Into A Healthy Lifestyle

      Erectile dysfunction is not necessarily best treated simply by drugs or medication. There are other ways to get over Erectile dysfunction and have a better sex life. Simple kegel exercises are great to start. The best thing about these exercises is that they can be done anywhere and anytime. Moreover, aerobic exercises also help in improving your cardiovascular health and that can directly impact your ability to achieve an erection and get rid of Erectile dysfunction. So, incorporating these exercises can not only give you a healthy life but also healthy sex by achieving and maintaining an erection.

  4. The Role of Diet in Managing Erectile Dysfunction

    1. Overview of the Impact Of Diet On Erectile Dysfunction

      Dietary patterns containing high content of whole grain foods, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and that limit full-fat dairy products, red meat, food, and beverages that are high in added sugars are linked with a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction.(22) Mediterranean-style diet is associated with a lower prevalence of Erectile dysfunction in both, nondiabetic and diabetic males.(23, 24)

      A study conducted in 2018 that included participants in the age group 18 to 40 years, found that individuals consuming a higher amount of flavones in their diet showed an improved signs of Erectile dysfunction.(25) Fruits and vegetables comprise a sub-compound known as flavones.(26) Flavones are also found in fair concentration in chamomile tea, artichoke heads, bergamot juice, bell peppers, and kumquat.

      Apart from the diet, smoking tobacco (directly or indirectly) can be a risk factor for erectile dysfunction.(27, 28)

    2. Foods to Incorporate Into A Diet For Erectile Dysfunction Management

      Below are some of the foods that should be incorporated into the diet for Erectile dysfunction management


      Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and fruits like apples, pears, and citrus fruits can reduce the chance of erectile dysfunction significantly.

      A 10-year prospective study that included 25, 096 middle-aged men has shown that those who consumed the most flavonoids had a 9% to 11% reduced incidence of erectile dysfunction when compared with those who consumed fewer flavonoids.(29)

      Berries are rich in flavonoids. So, these foods should be incorporated into your diet if you are looking to manage Erectile dysfunction through the diet.


      Another food that can help in the management of Erectile dysfunction is Salmon. A study conducted in 2016 including rats looked at the association between omega-3 fatty acids and erectile dysfunction.(30) The study has shown that a higher intake of these fatty acids helps in lowering physiological damage, which ultimately reduced Erectile dysfunction.

      The cold-water Salmon has been listed as one of the most fundamental foods for omega-3 fatty acids intake by The National Institutes of Health (NIH).(31)

      So, for increasing the intake of natural omega-3 fatty acids, individuals must consume more wild salmon from cold water.

      Olive Oil

      Olive oil can benefit you if you are looking for food that can help with Erectile dysfunction. However, one should consider unrefined and extra virgin olive oil.

      A 7-year study of clinical trials that examined the association between Mediterranean diets and ED has listed olive oil as one of the most beneficial ingredients.(32) However, the study only examined virgin and extra virgin olive oil.

      Whole Grain

      Whole grains are also one of the best foods to help with Erectile dysfunction management. A study conducted in 2017 examined the effects of grain on erectile dysfunction.(33) The results concluded that a Mediterranean diet including whole grains is more effective in treating erectile dysfunction when compared with a low-fat diet.

      However, to perform more studies to understand the overall health benefits of whole grains, more research must be performed.

      Nuts and Legumes

      A study from 2020 has found that consuming nuts and legumes might help in reducing Erectile dysfunction.(34) Legumes are the only natural food that contains catechins and epicatechins, which are the compounds that make up one subset of flavonoids, namely flavan-3-ol.

      If you are dealing with problems with the erection then try adding nuts and legumes to your daily diet and see if it benefits you.

      Herbs and Spices

      Herbs and spices include high amounts of flavonoids. Some of these herbs and spices are thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley, tarragon, and oregano. So, they can also be included in your diet for ED management.

      Meats and Poultry

      Meats and poultry are also included in the diet for Erectile dysfunction management. L-arginine, which is an amino acid found mostly in protein-dense foods could help with Erectile dysfunction. Usually, men with erectile dysfunction have lower levels of l-arginine. The body uses l-arginine to make nitric oxide that widens and relaxes blood vessels, thus increasing the flow of blood to the penis.

      Poultry, red meat, fish, dairy products, and nuts are rich in l-arginine. So, you should add these foods to your diet if you want to manage Erectile dysfunction.

      Leafy Greens

      Nitrates are food compounds that can increase the levels of nitric oxide.(35) It has also been suggested by researchers that they might also reduce inflammation and blood pressure levels.

      Foods containing high levels of nitrates are spinach, arugula, lettuce, and radish.(36)

      These foods should be incorporated into your diet if you are looking for Erectile dysfunction.

      Tea and Coffee

      A study from 2020 suggests that tea increases flavonoids as a part of a healthy diet.(37) A study from 2018 that examined the impact of coffee on erectile dysfunction has found that long-term coffee intake is not associated with the risk of developing Erectile dysfunction.(38)

      Moreover, since coffee contains antioxidants, taking them in moderate amounts might help to build resistance to inflammation.

    3. Foods to Avoid Or Limit For Optimal Erectile Dysfunction Management

      Some foods that must be avoided or limited while looking for ED management are listed below.


      Eating foods that contain substances that are considered unhealthy or drinking beverages that contain sugar regularly can cause weight gain and a high body mass index (BMI).

      An older article states that excessive bod weight and an increase in body mass index can cause erectile dysfunction.(39)

      High-Fat Meals

      High-fat meals can increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which in turn can also cause problems in the arteries that supply blood to the penis. So, you should avoid taking more high-fat meals and keep away from erectile dysfunction.


      Alcohol consumption can also affect the sexual health of a person. An article has shown that 72% of men with alcohol dependence had some or the other kind of sexual health issues like low sex drive, premature ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction.(40) Excessive consumption of alcohol can also reduce the flow of blood to the penis and this might reduce the chance of achieving an erection.

  5. Lifestyle Changes and Erectile Dysfunction Management

    1. Overview of the Importance Of Incorporating Lifestyle Changes Into Erectile Dysfunction Management

      Doing regular physical activity can reduce the risk of sexual dysfunction. Moreover, taking a healthy diet can also lower the risk of ED in men and also sexual dysfunction in women. So, it is important to incorporate lifestyle changes into ED management. You should avoid a sedentary lifestyle and start exercising. Consuming foods that are good for erectile dysfunction and avoiding those which are not good for Erectile dysfunction should also be practiced to bring a positive impact on Erectile dysfunction management.

    2. Integration with Conventional Erectile Dysfunction Treatments

      Apart from following a healthy lifestyle like eating healthy, doing physical activities, and avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption, it is also important to follow conventional Erectile dysfunction treatments strictly as prescribed by your doctor. Some of the most important treatments for erectile dysfunctions include alprostadil injections, testosterone replacement therapy, vacuum erection devices, penile implants, and vascular surgical procedures. Integrating healthy lifestyle behaviors by eating right, staying physically active, and limiting alcohol and smoking, with conventional ED treatments can benefit you greatly.

    3. Importance of Sustained And Long-Term Lifestyle Changes For Optimal Erectile Dysfunction Management

      Improvement of erectile function in males should be added to the list of clinical benefits brought about by healthy lifestyle behavior in humans. It is important to follow sustained and long-term lifestyle changes like increasing physical activities, eating healthy, avoiding smoking, and preventing other conditions that could lead to Erectile dysfunction. With this, it would be easier to manage erectile dysfunction and lead a healthy sex life.

  6. Conclusion

    There are many ways to improve erectile dysfunction, and one of those is by making specific lifestyle changes and following the prescribed medical treatments. If you are finding erection issues that have become an ongoing problem, then make sure to consult a doctor and get yourself treated at the earliest.


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Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 19, 2023

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