When it comes to servicing, us men are usually quite good at getting our vehicles or machines done on a regular basis. Although we are good at this (most of the time), we are notoriously bad for servicing our own machine (our body). Too many men come into our clinic and to GP’s with an issue that they have “just put up with” or “thought it would get better on its own”. This is how the majority of men deal with their own health issues and usually it doesn’t make it “better”.
There’s no secret that physical exercise is good for everybody, and it is recommended that the average Australian should be exercising for 30 minutes minimum daily. But what does this mean for us, the average Aussie male? Physical exercise helps with improving general well-being, by promoting a healthy weight and improving mental health, but it also helps with reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Something that I found interesting during researching conditions that are common in the average male was erectile dysfunction.
Discussions surrounding sexual health of every patient is important, especially for getting a good past medical history for physicians, but it is something that is often missed. In Australia, there are currently around one million males that are affected by erectile dysfunction, which is an extraordinarily high number! With this in mind, shouldn’t there be a bigger focus on this condition? I believe its because of the sensitive nature of talking about bedroom performance or lack thereof.
To get a better understanding of how erectile dysfunction works, I will give a basic overview. Erectile function is controlled by the functioning of our arteries, our central and peripheral nervous systems, and our endocrine system. For most Aussie male’s erectile dysfunction occurs due to these main factors; overweight/obesity, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol and tobacco use, which inhibit or disrupt the systems which control erectile function.
In our clinic we deal with almost exclusively musculoskeletal injuries – whether due to a sporting incident or playing with the kids and doing something we shouldn’t have. Our general questions involve how it happened, how long ago, and how is this impacting on function. At the end we usually ask if there is any medical information we need to know about, which encompasses anything from previous surgeries to cardiovascular health. Usually in the older population, the usual responses are; “I take blood pressure tablets for high blood pressure”. In my experience this is usually the only action that is taken to treat this problem. We know that we all need on average 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise for general health and well- being, but even with cardiovascular issues, most of us aren’t hitting this target.
So let’s get back to it, such a high number of Aussie blokes being affected by something that isn’t talked about enough and isn’t treated as well as it could be. For the high percentage of cases which are affected by weight issues, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol and tobacco use can be managed with the use of…… you got it! EXERCISE! From a literature review I conducted from my undergraduate degree, I found that the most effective form of exercise was one that targeted our aerobic system or cardio exercise (which we all love). It was agreed that high volume (200-300 minutes/week) had the greatest impact at a moderate intensity. By doing this it reduces cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors, which leads to weight loss! And the less excess weight we have, the better our arteries can work to pump blood around our body!
But to get a proper understanding about why your erectile function may be impaired it is best to get a proper assessment by a physician, as it may be needed to be treated with medical interventions and not solely by exercise. Opening up this conversation with your Physio or GP could be the start to a healthier, happier you!
Physiotherapist Joe Denison