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We all know that regular exercise is great for your health, but it can also improve your performance in the bedroom too.
Obesity is increasing across the world with the US topping the scales, closely followed by Mexico, South Africa and worryingly, the UK, where 64% of adults are classed as being overweight or obese (2013).
Being overweight can cause many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory conditions, joint and bone diseases and fertility problems, all of which can impact upon your sexual health. Diabetes can cause nerve damage throughout the body, leading to diabetic neuropathy; if the nerves in the penis are affected, erectile dysfunction (ED) may occur. Meanwhile, having a healthy heart plays a huge part in penis health, and joint pain can make certain sexual positions feel painful.
Excess weight gain causes fat to accumulate in the lower abdomen, changing the apparent size of the penis, according to Dr Ira Shalip, clinical professor of urology at the University of California. This large pre-pubic fat pad can make the penile shaft look shorter, in effect, burying the penis. In fact, some men find they can gain at least an inch in penis size by simply losing weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure, and eating a diet that helps to lower cholesterol can help with weight loss. Drugs used to control high blood pressure (hypertension) are often blamed for causing ED, but many doctors believe that the reason for ED is actually caused by the arterial damage resulting from hypertension rather than side effects of the drugs.
Regular swimming, aerobic exercise and stretches can improve muscle tone and strength in the pelvic area increasing the range of positions you can use during sex and boost your stamina, enabling you to enjoy longer periods of sexual activity.
The best swimming stroke for your pelvic floor is the breaststroke, as the simple action of bringing your legs together causes your thigh and pelvic floor muscles to contract, thus strengthening them. All swimming strokes help to tone your waist and pelvic muscles to some degree because you constantly have to engage these muscles to keep your balance as you swim.
For men, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help prevent symptoms of ED, such as premature ejaculation and erectile problems, as well as leading to stronger erections and more intense orgasms.
For women, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can also help alleviate health problems such as urinary incontinence, vaginal prolapse and strengthen your orgasms too.
A University of California study (2003) found that when middle-aged men took an hour-long walk three times a week, they improved their sexual function, frequency of sexual activity and the quality of their orgasms. Aerobic exercise can reduce the incidence of ED by up to 30%.
A Harvard University study of 160 male and female swimmers in their 40s and 60s found a positive relationship between physical exercise and sexual intercourse. The swimmers in their 60s reported having sex lives similar to that of people aged 40+ in the general population (Krucoff and Krucoff 2000).
Bortz and Wallace (1999) found that the fitter an older person was, the better their sexual activity and satisfaction. They has found that higher levels of sexual activity and satisfaction are linked to better levels of fitness in men and women over 55, compared to inactive younger people.
Research by Penn State College of Medicine (2015) found that exercise and a healthy diet can improve fertility in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Interestingly, male partners of infertile obese women increased their chances of conceiving a child by losing weight through eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise, according to researchers at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada (2015)
According to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise led by a researcher at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, men who exercise infrequently are more likely to wake up at night to urinate, a condition known as nocturia (Wolin et al 2014).
Nocturia is the most common lower urinary tract symptom in men. Nocturia is defined as waking two or three times during the night to pee and severe nocturia is defined as waking three or more time to urinate.
Regular exercise has also been found beneficial to preventing the spread of prostate cancer and aiding recovery during and after cancer treatment.
All forms of exercise boost your endorphins, feel good hormones, which can help to increase your libido by reducing your stress levels – a major contributory factor in low libido.
It can also improve your circulation, increasing blood flow around the body and especially to the genital area, boosting sexual function and quality of orgasms too. Some women even have an orgasm whilst exercising!
It can help you live longer! Research from Buffalo University (2017) found that women who engaged in 30 minutes per day of light physical activity had a 12% lower risk of death and those who did a half-hour each day of moderate to vigorous activity had a 39% lower mortality risk.
Exercising in general has both physical and psychological benefits to health by helping you lose weight and tone your body which, in turn, increases your body confidence making you feel and look more attractive. It also reduces stress, raises self-esteem, improves your mood and increases self-confidence, all of which can contribute to a more enriched sex life.