Women cyclists are more prone to common gynecological problems, but not serious sexual or urinary dysfunction

March 14, 2018 by Elizabeth Fernandez, University of California, San Francisco
Women cyclists are more prone to common gynecological problems, but not serious sexual or urinary dysfunction
Credit: University of California, San Francisco

Women bicycle riders are more likely to experience urinary tract infections, genital numbness and saddle sores, but not more likely to have serious sexual and urinary symptoms than non-cyclists. In fact, high-intensity female cyclists had better sexual function, according to a new study led by UC San Francisco.

The research, which analyzed data from women athletes in five countries, including the United States, investigated whether negatively impacts urinary and sexual function in women.

Previous small studies have demonstrated a possible relationship between cycling and sexual dysfunction, which has led to wide scale assumptions that biking could impair urinary or sexual function. However, the new study showed no worse sexual or in women cyclists than non-cyclists, although the authors noted that the problematic genital symptoms could possibly lead to issues related to sexual dysfunction down the road.

The study will be published March 13, 2018, in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

"We found that lifetime miles ridden was associated with better sexual function, as measured by a common, validated questionnaire," said first author Thomas W. Gaither, a UCSF medical student.

"One of the more novel findings of the study is that lifetime miles ridden were directly correlated with saddle sores and urinary tract infections," Gaither said. "These findings may be considered by some as minor, however, saddle sores and infections may inhibit sexual activity. If we could find a way to prevent saddle sores and infections, we believe that cycling might improve the sexual health of women."

Women bicycle riders now make up about half of all cyclists in the U.S., an 8 percent increase from 2011, recent surveys have reported. The health benefits are numerous, including improved heart function and lower rates of obesity. Still, there have been reports linking cycling to urinary or sexual dysfunction.

For the new study, participants were recruited from major cycling, swimming and running organizations in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Swimmers and runners were recruited as a comparison group.

Survey participants were divided into two groups: low-intensity and high-intensity riders. High-intensity riders were defined as women who had cycled for more than two years and rode their bikes more than three times weekly, averaging more than 25 miles each time.

Altogether, 3,118 completed the survey. Of those, 34 percent were non-cyclists, 53 percent were low-intensity cyclists, and 13 percent were high-intensity cyclists. The majority of participants were white, under age 40, single and normal weight. In addition to the Female Sexual Function Index, they also completed the American Urological Symptom Index questionnaire.

The cyclists were queried on numerous factors: bike type (mountain, road, hybrid, recumbent); saddle type (wide, unpadded, long); frequency of wearing padded shorts; amount of time standing while cycling; saddle angle; handlebar height; and type of riding surface (urban, rural, off road).

The researchers adjusted for a number of factors, including age, race, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes and tobacco use.

The researchers confirmed an association between cycling and genital numbness and saddle sores, but no association between cycling intensity or duration and sexual or urinary . This study also showed some indication of improved among high-intensity bike riders, as measured by significantly greater scores on the Female Sexual Function Index and a lower odds of reporting than non-cyclists. They said further study is warranted, particularly concerning a possible link between cycling and .

Explore further: Cycling does not damage men's sexual or urinary functions

More information: Cycling and Female Sexual and Urinary Function: Results From a Large, Multinational, Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Sexual Medicine. doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.02.004

Related Stories

Cycling does not damage men's sexual or urinary functions

January 12, 2018
Cycling is increasingly popular for transportation, exercise, and leisure, and its impact on sexual health has received a great deal of media attention, especially regarding erectile function. In a new report in The Journal ...

Bike fanatics shouldn't worry about effects on sexual health

May 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—The groin pain and numbness some serious bicyclists experience isn't harmful to their sexual or urinary health, two new studies suggest.

Handlebar level can affect sexual health of female cyclists

July 9, 2012
A new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals that handlebar position is associated with changes in genital sensation in female cyclists.

Bicycle handlebar position affects female genital sensation

March 16, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Low handlebar positioning relative to the bicycle saddle is associated with increased perineal saddle pressure and decreased sensation in critical pelvic floor structures, according to research published online ...

A call for greater attention to older women's sexual health

January 24, 2018
A new Journal of the American Geriatrics Society article reviews common issues in caring for the sexual health of older women, noting that physicians often lack sufficient training.

Recommended for you

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

Study shows magnesium optimizes vitamin D status

December 14, 2018
A randomized trial by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers indicates that magnesium optimizes vitamin D status, raising it in people with deficient levels and lowering it in people with high levels.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.