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Study Shows Exercise Associated With Better Sexual Functioning in Men
WebMD Health News
Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD
June 4, 2010 (San Francisco) -- Men seeking to improve their performance in bed might want to give exercise a shot.
Men who exercised had substantially higher scores on a sexual-function questionnaire than men who were sedentary, researchers report.
Looked at another way, men who were moderately active -- walking briskly just 30 minutes a day, four days a week, or the equivalent -- were about two-thirds less likely to have sexual dysfunction than their sedentary counterparts, says Erin McNamara, MD, of Duke University Medical Center.
"If men won't exercise for their cardiovascular health, maybe they will for their sexual function," she tells WebMD.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association.
Exercise, Sex, and Healthy Men
While several studies have shown that exercise may help improve sexual function in obese men, very few have looked at the relationship between exercise and sex in healthy men, McNamara says.
So she and colleagues studied 178 healthy men, average age 62, about two-thirds of whom were white and one-third, black.
Participants filled out sexual functioning questionnaires that covered six areas: ability to have an erection, ability to reach orgasm, quality of erection, frequency of erection, overall sexual function, and sexual problems.
Their answers were converted to a numeric score on a 0 to 100 scale and averaged into an overall sexual function score in which higher scores corresponded to better function.
More Than Half of Men Sedentary
The men also completed an exercise survey that asked how often they engaged in mild exercise (such as yoga), moderate exercise (such as brisk walking), and strenuous exercise (such as jogging) in a typical week, as well as average duration of their workouts.
Based on those answers, 53% of men were sedentary, 14% were active, 9% were moderately active, and 24% were highly active, McNamara says.
Brisk walking 30 minutes a day, four or five days a week, or the equivalent would fall into the moderately active category; jogging or swimming on the same schedule would place a man in the highly active category.
More Active Men Had Higher Sex Function Scores
The men's average sexual function score was 53 points.
The sedentary men scored only 43 points. Moderately active men scored 72, and highly active men scored 70 points.
After adjusting for factors that could affect sexual functioning -- age, race, body mass index, heart disease, diabetes, and depression -- the researchers found that more active men still had significantly higher sexual function scores.
Men who were moderately or highly active were 65% less likely to have sexual dysfunction -- defined as a sexual function score of less than 40 -- than sedentary men.
Healthy Lifestyle Associated With Healthy Sex Lives
McNamara hypothesizes that exercise can increase blood flow through the penis, making it easier to get an erection.
Also, working out may make men feel better about themselves and that in turn may improve sexual prowess, she says.
Ira Sharlip, MD, clinical professor of urology at the University of California, San Francisco, says that the findings are in line with other research suggesting healthy lifestyles are associated with healthy sex lives.
But the study doesn't prove cause and effect, he tells WebMD.
"You can't conclude that better exercise leads to better sex. It could be that because these men are healthy, they can exercise more and they have better sexual health," Sharlip says.
This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.
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Erin R. McNamara, MD, Duke University Medical Center.
Ira Sharlip, MD, department of urology, University of California, San Francisco.
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