Aging changes the balance of sex hormones and causes endothelial dysfunction in the penis, both of which are important determinants of erectile dysfunction (ED). The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether exercise training could protect against erectile dysfunction by increasing serum testosterone and penile eNOS levels in aging rats.Methods:
A total of 14 young (2-month-old) and 14 middle-aged (18-month-old) Sprague Dawley rats were randomly assigned to either untrained control (young control, [YC], middle-aged control, [MC]) or endurance exercise-trained (young exercise, [YE], middle-aged exercise, [ME]) groups with seven rats per group. The exercise groups trained with treadmill running for 6weeks. Body composition parameters (body weight, heart mass, liver mass, and testicular mass), serum sex hormone levels (testosterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and prolactin), endothelial function-related parameters in the penis (endothelial nitric oxide synthase [eNOS], CD31, alpha smooth muscle actin [α-SMA]), and maximal intracavernous pressure measure (ICP) and total ICP were analyzed in middle-aged rats.Results:
The middle-aged groups showed increased body weight, as compared with the young groups, but exercise training attenuated the aging-induced increase in body weight. The middle-aged groups had lower testicular mass compared with the young groups, but exercise training attenuated aging-induced decreases in testicular mass. Exercise training increased serum testosterone levels in both the young and middle-aged groups. However, there were no changes in the levels of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and prolactin among the groups. MC group showed decreased protein levels of p-eNOS, as compared with the YC group. However, exercise training protected against aging-induced decrease in eNOS and p-eNOS protein levels in the penis. Interestingly, exercise training also increased protein levels of α-SMA and maximal ICP in the middle-aged group.Conclusions:
Exercise training has beneficial effects on erectile function in aged rats through increased testosterone production from the testis and strengthening of the cavernous endothelium with activation of eNOS. Therefore, exercise training may be a therapeutic modality for improving erectile dysfunction associated with aging.