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Bicycle Seats and Numbness in Male and Female Cyclists

Several studies have shown that male bicycle riders can become impotent from pressing their genitals against a bicycle seat. A study from Yale showed that compression from a bicycle seat can cause loss of feeling in a woman's genitals (J Sex Med 2006;3:1018-1027). Now, a new study from Yale shows that the lower a woman sets her handlebars, the more she bends forward and the harder she presses her genitals against the bicycle seat to cause this loss of genital feeling (J Sex Med, published online March 5, 2012).

Women who suffer the most genital numbness set their handlebars below the height of their seats. Riders set their handlebars low to lower their bodies so they can go faster. More than 60 percent of the force you press on your pedals is lost by the air resistance against you and your bike. So, to go faster, you make yourself lower and narrower.

Most bicycle seats have a round back portion to support your buttocks and a narrow nose in the front. While genital discomfort during long rides is very common among bicycle riders, it is uncommon in professional bicycle racers. Experienced bicycle racers know how to choose and adjust their seats to prevent discomfort when they ride. They usually:

• set the nose level with, or slightly higher than, the back of the seat,
• adjust the height of their seat post so that they never straighten their knees during pedaling, and
• choose a seat with just enough padding to prevent discomfort and width to support their buttocks.

Noseless bicycle seats cause little or no genital discomfort, but racers cannot use noseless seats because they need to press on the nose with their inner thighs to control the bike. A noseless seat also forces riders to increase pressure on the handlebars, increasing their susceptibility to hand numbness.

IMPOTENCE: Impotence is most commonly caused by nerve or artery damage. Exercising regularly helps to keep arteries healthy, so bicycling helps to prevent impotence, as long as it does not damage the local arteries and nerves. Three percent of regular male bicycle riders become impotent, and virtually all of them felt pain or numbness before the problem occurred. When a nerve is pinched or the blood supply to the penis is shut off, a man feels numb. Men who ride with conventional bicycle seats and do not feel numb are not likely to be at risk for impotence. If you feel no discomfort when you ride, keep on riding.

Half of the penis is inside the body and the main blood supply comes from the area just behind the scrotum and in front of the rectum. So bicycle seats that press on that area can cause impotence, while those that do not have a nose and have a widened area to hold your weight on your sitz bones should prevent the problem. Some seats have holes in the middle; the theory is that if there is no pressure behind the scrotum, there will be no numbness.


1) Avoid seats with excessive padding. The greater the padding, the deeper you sink into the saddle and the more likely you are to feel numbness.

2) Use a gel saddle that is not too hard and not too soft.

3) Do not tilt the saddle nose downward. The seat should be level or angled slightly upward.

4) Set your handlebars higher to reduce how much you bend forward. The lower you bend, the greater the pressure on your perineum. However, sitting upright increases wind resistance and will slow you down.

5) Change positions and stand often while you ride.

7) Wear thin padding in your pants. Most good bicycle pants come with form-fitted chamois padding.


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High Rises in Blood Sugar or Blood Fat Shorten Life

High rises in blood sugar or blood fat levels increase risk for cell damage, heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. Blood sugar levels are most likely to rise too high after taking sugared drinks or sugar-added foods (except during exercise), and blood fat levels rise very high after eating a high-fat meal.

EXERCISE HELPS TO PROLONG LIFE AND PREVENT DISEASE: Exercising before, during or immediately after eating helps to prevent these high rises in blood sugar and fat levels. High- intensity exercise is far more effective than less-intense exercise in preventing high rises in blood fat levels after a high-fat meal (Clinical Science, March 2012). Nine men participated in the following study:

Day 1: Subjects rested (Control Group), walked briskly for 30 minutes (Walking Group) or performed 5 repeats of 30-second all- out sprints (High Intensity Group).

Day 2: Subjects ate a high-fat meal for breakfast and for lunch three hours later.

Only the high intensity exercisers had a marked lowering of their rise in blood fats, and a lowering of their production of oxidants after a meal. Oxidants damage arteries and other tissues.


1) Most cases of disability and premature death in America today are caused by lack of exercise and eating too much food, sugared foods and high-fat foods.

2) A high rise in blood sugar or blood fat after meals is one of the causes of premature death.

3) Exercising helps to prevent premature death by reducing and preventing this high rise in blood sugar and blood fat after meals.

4) Intense exercise is more effective than just exercising in preventing a high rise in blood sugar and blood fat after meals.

5) The foods that cause the highest rise in blood sugar and fats are sugared drinks, sugar-added foods, and foods loaded with animal fats in their meat and dairy products.


Exercisers Should Not Take Sugared Drinks an Hour before a
Hard Workout or Competition

When you take sugared drinks when you are not exercising,
• your BLOOD SUGAR LEVEL RISES. If it rises too high, sugar sticks to the outer surface of cell membranes and damages these cells.

• To prevent sugar levels from rising too high, your pancreas releases large amounts of INSULIN to drive the sugar from the bloodstream into cells. High levels of insulin constrict arteries leading to your heart to increase risk for heart attacks. High levels of insulin also convert sugar to fatty triglycerides and high levels of TRIGLYCERIDES increase risk for clotting, heart attacks, obesity and diabetes.

• HDL cholesterol is used to carry triglycerides from your bloodstream to your liver, so you LOWER BLOOD LEVELS OF YOUR GOOD HDL CHOLESTEROL.

• The extra triglycerides in your liver lead to a FATTY LIVER that can cause DIABETES.

WHY IT IS SAFE TO TAKE SUGARED DRINKS WHEN YOU EXERCISE: Blood sugar levels do not rise too high during exercise because your exercising muscles can remove sugar from the bloodstream without needing insulin, so the damaging events described above do not occur.

WHY IT IS UNWISE TO TAKE SUGARED DRINKS ONE HOUR BEFORE EXERCISE: Your blood sugar level can rise too high. This causes your pancreas to release huge amounts of insulin. Then when you start to exercise, your blood sugar can drop too low, forcing you to slow down or even causing you to pass out, because:
• high insulin levels drive sugar out of the bloodstream into cells, and
• muscles that are being contracted pull sugar out of the bloodstream.

WHY DO YOU NOT SUFFER A LOW BLOOD SUGAR RESPONSE WHEN YOU TAKE SUGARED DRINKS DURING EXERCISE OR IMMEDIATELY BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Once you start moving, your body produces large amounts of adrenalin and nor adrenalin that prevent your pancreas from releasing large amounts of insulin, and your blood sugar level does not drop (Science 1966; 152: 1248-1250). Taking sugared drinks during prolonged exercise can provide the sugar and fluid you need to maintain intensity (Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 1995; 70: 54-160).


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April 8th, 2012
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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