We've heard of the various health benefits of playing sports. Be it just a casual game of football or a Champion's League participation, sports is known to have physical as well as mental benefits to the human body.
But is it possible that there is a sport that could cause some serious damage to our body as well?
The impulsive answer would be a NO. But after a lot of research and surveys, it's been established that cycling causes Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and sexual dysfunction, especially in women.
What are UTIs?
Urinary Tract Infection is the infection that occurs in any part of the urinary tract. It occurs due to bacteria and fungi that enter the urinary tract. The most common cause being Escherichia coli, or E. coli.
The symptoms of UTIs vary from incontinence, burning with urination, or a need to urinate frequently, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, etc. In severe cases, there's presence of blood or pus in the urine.
The most common complaints of people who cycle is soreness of the butt and groin area, abdominal pain, inflammation, redness and total discomfort.
This is due to the constant friction caused by pedaling and due to the pressure of the body bearing down on the saddle. This discomfort could also be caused by the extra effort you put in to reach the pedal when the cycle is not adjusted to an individual's height.
How Does Cycling Cause UTIs In Women?
The length of the urethra in women is shorter compared to that of men. Due to this type of anatomical difference, it's easier for women to acquire UTIs. This urethra that leads to the bladder is the breeding ground for the infection-causing bacteria and fungi to thrive in.
The area of a woman's body, which has a multitude of bacteria is the one that is closest to the saddle of a bike. The heat, friction and pressure in that area is increased during cycling. This repeated motion causes the bacteria to be pushed further into the urethral opening.
Since the urethra in women is at a shorter distance to the bladder, the more are the chances of the bacteria reaching the bladder, and faster. The more serious symptom of this UTI, genital soreness or saddle sores is sexual dysfunction.
Even though it's proven that any form of exercise betters the sexual function in an individual, a lot of soreness could cause disinterest due to increased pain. But this is a rare occurrence. Regular cycling with appropriate measures is actually known to improve sexual function.
The same cannot be said for cycling and UTIs.
A number of steps can be taken to avoid and reduce these sores and the discomfort that follows:
1. Fit And Saddle Choice:
It goes without saying that a cycle needs to be adjusted to the height of the person using it. This includes the saddle height and the handle bar reach. There are various options for saddles, big and padded, ultra-thin, etc. Take time out and find the right type for you, don't just go by word of mouth. This is important because the anatomy of every individual is different, and so is its requirement.
The leather used in cycling shorts for padding is from a European goat-antelope species. Its famous because it is the type of padding that is porous and effective at the same time. It is termed as Chamois. Chamois creams are also available for the purpose of avoiding saddle sores. Invest time and money to buy a good pair of cycling shorts.
3. Go Commando:
Yes, you read that right! Having one more layer before you put on your shorts could increase the friction and heat. This not only increases the sores, it also increases risks of UTIs.
4. Hydration And Hygiene:
Water is the universal solution, like literally! It helps to flush out all the bacteria on a regular basis, reducing risks of acquiring any infections.
Staying clean is the other universal solution. Changing those chamois shorts and washing them, washing the other surfaces you come in contact with is important.
Don't worry though, these infections can be treated easily with a little care and effort.
Don't let this hinder your dreams. Cycle away to glory! It is good for you.