Fitness Does a Lot for Your Sex Life
The Takeaway First
High levels of physical activity are linked to better performance in bed, reports a new study published last week in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. And it turns out the daily workout you need to boost your staying power isn’t extreme at all.
- 295 male veterans participated in the study.
- Participants represented multiple racial groups.
- Men whose sexual performance benefited from the exercise were logging 18 METs per week, which is the equivalent of 2 hours of strenuous exercise, 3.5 hours of moderate exercise, or 6 hours of light exercise.
My Take on This
I like to tell my patients that the penis is the “barometer” of male health. The cardiovascular system carries blood to every part of the body through arteries, a few of which makes its way down to the penis. These provide the penile tissues with oxygen and nutrients from day to day, and they also engorge the erectile tissues during an erection. Because erections depend on an unobstructed blood flow to the penile arteries, if a man can’t keep it up, I often look into health of his heart.
If one of my patients is having trouble keeping it up, I also remind him that the other most important factor in achieving and maintaining an erection is the state of your brain. If you’ve ever tried to have sex when your mind was somewhere else, you understand this. Stress from work, unresolved relationship conflict, guilt, anxiety—psychological disturbance not only saps the energy and interest from sex, but it also keeps your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) in a chokehold. The PNS is the part of your nervous system that helps you relax and feel at ease, and it’s also the system that triggers erections. It’s the circuit breaker that can shut down any turn-on.
Now, this relates to exercise in an indirect way. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise decreases your resting heart rate and can help to reduce anxiety by raising your body’s stress tolerance. With a higher stress tolerance, it’s easier for your brain to engage your PNS at the right time.
What Should You Do?
If you’re having problems keeping it up, do two things. First, check your heart. Are you out of shape? Do your daily activities leave you winded? If so, it’s time to make changes in your lifestyle to strengthen your cardiovascular system. You can achieve 18 METs per week just by walking for one hour a day. And this is the very least you can do. But if you’re unsure of yourself or have other complicating health problems, talk to your naturopathic or functional medicine doctor about what kinds of physical activity are best for you.
The second thing you should do is check your mind. What goes through your mind when you’re getting ready for sex? Are you distracted? Worried? Self-conscious? Going through performance anxiety? Sometimes the answers are obvious, and sometimes they’re not, but digging a little deeper for the root cause of your confidence problem could uncover a lasting solution. Keep in mind that there is no relationship closer than the one between your body and your mind.
Ross M Simon, Lauren Howard, Daniel Zapata, Jennifer Frank, Stephen J Freedland, Adriana C Vidal. The Association of Exercise with Both Erectile and Sexual Function in Black and White Men. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2015;