With a cultural wellness revolution in full swing just as gyms closed across the country last spring, those most mindful of their fitness needed a new outlet. Peloton — which already enjoyed something of a cult following before the pandemic but had never logged a single profitable quarter — was perfectly positioned to fill the void. The company shook off a late-2019 controversy (centered around a holiday ad deemed sexist by many on social media) to invade the homes of nearly two million new devotees by the end of June. When 2020 ended, Peloton’s revenue had reached $1.8 billion for the year, doubling its 2019 intake. In one headline, Slate claimed the company “won the pandemic.”
Now, though, in addition to questions about Peloton’s post-pandemic sustainability, one doctor is wondering aloud how all this pedaling has affected our rear ends.
“We’re all stressed as fuck,” says Dr. Evan Goldstein, an anal surgeon and founder of Bespoke Surgical, a clinic specializing in sexual health. This pandemic-induced state of constant worry, fear and panic can cause the muscles in and around our anus and pelvic floor to tighten up. Constantly sitting down as we increasingly work from home doesn’t help matters either, Goldstein adds. “Then we say, ‘Let me hop on to the Peloton,’ and it now enhances that contractility even further.”
With this combination of causes, Goldstein reports an increase in the number of patients he sees at his clinic who complain about hemorrhoids, prostatitis, erectile dysfunction and other issues emanating from pelvic floor problems. In a recent Medium essay, he coined an umbrella term for these conditions: “Peloton Pelvis” (though it should be noted that most of the problems he cites are endemic to all bikes, stationary or otherwise).
“All those ‘turn the resistance to the right’ and ‘up in third position’ [maneuvers] help give us enviously high, tight and round glutes,” Goldstein wrote in the post. But what it also does, he added, “is produce excessive sweating, friction, rubbing in the crotch area, as well as elevated anal pressures.”
The repeated rubbing of sweaty skin on a Peloton can cause not only rashes and seat burns, according to Goldstein, but also fungal and/or bacterial infections. Resulting “anal pressures” may have generated the hemorrhoids that have walked their way through his clinic this past year, while difficulty defecating as a result of these pressures can also cause tears, or “anal fissures.”
Even the muscle gains appearing in the region are of a particular concern to him — and should be for much of the clientele that he sees. Billing himself as an “NYC Gay Surgeon discussing ASS: A\rt, S\cience, and S\ex,” Goldstein treats predominently LGBTQ+ patients, many of whom enjoy anal sex. But, as he wrote, a big, “beautiful booty” that becomes too big and too beautiful from Peloton and other exercise routines can limit sexual penetration.
That said, Peloton Pelvis can affect straight men, too.
“Many people want that plump butt, but what they’re doing is building up the gluteal region and inadvertently overdoing the pelvic region,” Goldstein tells me. He notes that such a state can also be achieved through “ridiculous squat work and leg work,” among other exercises, not just Peloton programs. The excessive muscle buildup in the pelvis, Goldstein says, can cause muscle spasms and discomfort during ejaculation.
I ran Goldstein’s essay and my recorded interview with him by Dr. Laurence Levine, a noted urologist and the chief medical officer of the sexual wellness brand Promescent. Levine wrote in an email that he has also treated men “who are vigorous bike or Peloton riders” and who also complain of “temporary groin/perineal numbness which can extend into the penis.
“This tends to resolve within hours of stopping,” he added. “It is due to chronic sustained pressure on the nerves in that area. If the pressure is repeated or violent, as can occur with mountain bike riding, it could be more sustained numbness or even cause some temporary, or in very severe cases, permanent erectile dysfunction.”
Levine also noted that if a penis owner engaged in sex shortly after a vigorous bike ride, it could result in painful ejaculation. He wrote: “So best to rest a while after getting off the bike saddle.”
Goldstein says stretching exercises focused on the glutes and pelvic floor muscles are also a good idea. (This goes for both men and women.) He’s also an evangelist for crotch and anus cleanliness, having developed a line of products to help scrub effectively down there to minimize the impact sweaty pedaling can have on the local epidermis.
He offers one last suggestion, as well:
“I think the whole world should be into anal sex,” he says. “It has so many positive ramifications, specifically in this case.”
He says anal sex or at least anal dilation with various sex toys and tools help relax pelvic floor muscles, mitigating the potentially harmful impact of Peloton rides and other exercises focused on the region. Goldstein stresses that such activity in and around the anus does not have to be of a sexual nature.
“The reality is that it’s a muscle, regardless of how you use it.”