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Regular erections can improve men's sexual health

Regular erections can improve men's sexual health


, Wednesday, 14 February 2024 (15:50 IST)
I was often sad or gloomy as a kid growing up in northern England, so much so that friends often said: "Keep your pecker up." 
It turns out this was very good advice — they were talking about my courage, enthusiasm, good spirits. But "pecker" is also English slang for penis — and a new study shows that regular erections — keeping your pecker up — are important for maintaining erectile function.
The study, published in the journal Science, found that the number of fibroblasts in the penis is linked to the frequency of erections.
A higher number of fibroblasts means more frequent erections, and vice versa — a lower number of fibroblasts means fewer erections.
Fibroblasts are a common cell type in the body and contribute to the formation of connective tissues, and they are particularly abundant in the human penis.
What's more, the study suggests that men can train their erections by increasing the frequency of erections, and it's all down to producing more fibroblasts.
How do erections work?
Imagine a banana-shaped sponge. Now, pour some water on it and watch it expand — that's how an erection works.
The penis has two columns of spongy tissue called the corpora cavernosa, inside of which are blood vessels that fill with blood to cause an erection.
Muscles in the penis regulate the blood flow in the corpora cavernosa and control the firmness and duration of an erection.
The study found that fibroblasts are important for regulating the chemical signals that cause the muscles to contract and relax when the penis goes from flaccid to erect. More fibroblasts cause better control of the blood flow which causes erections.
While the study was performed in mice, the physiology of the penis is similar across all mammals, so the study does have implications for men's health.
"There is one difference, though — most mammals have a bone in their penis, but humans don't. That means it's even more important to have the blood flow to get hard, because we don't have any bone support," said Christian Göritz of the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and lead author of the study.
Training your erection
Göritz and their team found that older mice had fewer fibroblasts in the penis compared to young mice, which was also reflected in lower blood flow.
The ability to get an erection decreases with age in humans. In fact, 29% of men under 40, and 46% of men over 40 experience erectile dysfunction.
This could be due to having fewer fibroblasts in your penis when you're older: "It becomes less efficient at initiating an erection," Göritz said.
Does this mean men can train their erections? Yes, certainly, said Göritz.
"But it's not like a muscle training because fibroblasts are not muscles. It's more like endurance training, like running gives you better lung capacity and more efficient blood flow," said Göritz.
Training doesn't have to be with sexual activity. Men have an inbuilt erection training program that runs every night, often apparent when you wake up with morning "horn."
"As a healthy man, you have about five erections while you sleep, which last for a total of about three hours," Göritz said. "You're running an automatic training program for your erections, which is very conveniently happening during your sleep."
What this nightly training does, according to the study, is cause more fibroblasts to grow, which strengthens the ability to get frequent erections. Sweet dreams.
Erectile dysfunction
But if your nightly automatic training fails you, you can always seek help with erectile function.
Miranda Christophers, a psychosexual therapist in the UK, said this research could give sex therapists new understanding to help men tackle erectile dysfunction.
"In sex (psychosexual) therapy, we seek to understand the cause of the issue. We work through any unresolved psychological issues, removing pressures and expectations, and suggest approaches like solo start/stop exercises," Christophers told DW via email.
Erectile dysfunction is common, affecting almost half of all men at some point in their lives. Causes can be psychological, such as stress or depression, sexual pressure, low self-esteem, or of a physical nature, such as due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hormonal variations.
There are times when medical advice should be sought, such as if you are unable to get or maintain an erection when you are alone, during self-pleasure.
Sex therapists can help people understand those psychological and physical issues and suggest exercises to help maintain erectile function.
Nightly penis training, sex therapy, even medication — there are many ways to keep your pecker up. And your good spirits, too.

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