Cycling is a killer workout, and spin classes are a major trend in the fitness industry. If you’ve ever tried cycling, one of the first things you noticed was that it’s not the most comfortable exercise in the world. In addition to a burn that will last for days, your lady bits can take quite a beating.
In fact, cycling may actually be desensitizing your vagina. According to a 2012 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, too much time on a bike can reduce your vagina’s sensitivity and dull your ability to experience sensual pleasure.
The study compared female runners to cyclists who cycled at least 10 miles every week. Unlike the avid runners, the cyclists all had reduced “vaginal and labial genital sensation.”
The Type of Bike Matters
The research found that bikes with handlebars positioned lower than the saddle could have a greater effect on vaginal sensitivity. This design causes the rider to place additional pressure on their lower half, which results in reduced sensitivity.
The New York Post published an article in 2017 that included an explanation from London-based gynecologist Pradnya Pisal. According to Dr. Pisal, both men and women who spend more time on a bike will experience discomfort and possibile desensitization in their genetalia.
Dr. Pisal said, “For women cyclists, the most common problems are chafing, saddle sores, skin sensitivity and numbness, labial enlargement, vaginal irritation and infection (thrush and bacterial vaginosis), skin infections and urinary tract infections.”
The female vulva is a delicate structure that isn’t intended to support heavy weight. When you cycle, you bear most of your body weight forward on the point of the saddle, which places significant pressure on your vagina. This angle, especially for prolonged periods of time, can weaken the highly sensitive nerves that are spread throughout that region.
When it comes time to be intimate, many women may find that even oral foreplay and fingering does not produce strong sensual pleasure. The labia may even become larger and look bigger, a condition called labial hypertrophy.
For women who ride over 100 miles a week, this can be a serious issue, especially if their labia were already enlarged or asymmetrical to begin with. Dr. Pisal urges any woman who experiences swelling and soreness to consult their physician.
How to Protect Your Vagina When You Cycle
Padded shorts are the first line of defense. You can also add lubrication that is designed to reduce friction between your shorts and the saddle. In addition, finding the right posture and using the best bike for you is key.
If riding your bike causes pain, numbness, itching or irritation between your vagina and anus, you may have a condition called pudendal neuralgia, colloquially known as “Cyclist’s Syndrome.” The best thing to do in this case is to stop riding and use other forms of cardio while you work with a physician to treat your condition.
If you continue to cycle even when you experience dullness, swelling or pain, you could cause permanent damage to your vagina, and that’s not something anyone wants to deal with.