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Riding bikes harmful to female sexual health

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Bikes are fun, but bike saddles? Not so much. A new study shows that riding on regular saddles harms sexual health not just in men, but women too.

If you love riding bikes and you're a woman, you're in for some bad news: It could be hurting your sexual health.

It's long been known that bike saddles, which put pressure on sensitive areas of the body, can harm the sexual performance of men, but cycling's effect on the female anatomy was less well-known.

Until now.

A new study at Yale, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, shows that riding bikes decreases women's sexual sensation.

The theory behind the connection is that riding on a bike saddle places a lot of pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the genital area -- and it turns out this happens whether you are man or woman.

The study builds on a 2006 study at Yale that showed, compared to female runners, female cyclists had less genital sensation.

The latest study looked specifically at what about bikes affect soreness and numbness in women. The participants were 48 female bike riders who cycled at least 10 miles a week, though many biked much more.

The riders brought to the lab their own bikes, which were then mounted onto a stationary machine. The subjects were hooked up to a device that measured sensation in the pelvic floor, and they then rode on the bikes while reporting on feelings of numbness, soreness and tingling.

The main finding was that the lower the handlebars, the more physical effects the women experienced, likely because low handlebars required the women to lean forward, which in turn put more pressure on the perineum, which is made of soft tissue. The problem was most likely to occur when the rider assumed an aerodynamic racing position in which she leaned far forward with her back flat.

“We’re basically showing that there may be modifiable risk factors associated with female riders,” Dr. Marsha K. Guess, an author of the study and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, told The New York Times. “This better positions us to educate riders on safe riding practices that may actually be beneficial to reduction of pressure and lost sensation in the pelvic floor.”

In addition to raising handlebars, no-nose bike saddles (which you can see pictured here) also alleviate or eliminate the problem. Such bike saddles, in which the rider rests only on the pelvic "sit" bones, don't require the rider to put any pressure on the perineum. As Dr. Steven M. Schrader, who pioneered the use of no-nose bike saddles for men, believes they would also help women. As he explained the The Times, “If you don’t put weight there,” he said, “there’s no pressure.”

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via: The New York Times

photo: itspaulkelly/Flickr

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Laura Shin

Features Editor

Laura Shin has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is currently a contributor at Forbes. Previously, she worked at Newsweek, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and LearnVest. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure