ExerciseSex

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN GOOD OVERALL FITNESS AND GOOD SEX ISN’T ONLY OBVIOUS; IT’S A FACT BACKED UP BY YEARS OF RESEARCH.

On the surface, this might seem ridiculously obvious. People in better physical shape get to have the most and best-quality sex. This much should be obvious to anyone who grew up with a television set.

But the images and ideas from Madison Avenue don’t necessarily provide the best advice. After all, how many of the most avid beer consumers get the Swedish bikini volleyball players in the end?

Perhaps someone with hair loss might feel disadvantaged in this regard. For men in particular, the feelings may be unfounded, given how androgenic alopecia is rooted in high levels of testosterone. Still, if you’re not comfortable with how you look it may impact how you feel about your sexual attractiveness overall.

A good body of research over many years make the point clear: physical fitness leads to more and better in the sack. A study of 160 middle-aged male and female swimmers found that those in their 60s had sex lives comparable to people in their 40s in the general population (Krucoff & Krucoff, 2000). A population of college students drew a strong correlation between physical activity and increased desire and sexual activity (Frauman, 1982). Providing evidence of how this works, a direct correlation between exercise, an activated sympathetic nervous system and blood flow to genitalia has also been identified (Stanten & Yeager, 2003).

The physiology of sexual prowess

There are three primary factors to think about where it comes to sexual performance. Obviously for men, erectile function and its opposite, ED (erectile dysfunction), is the first. We live in the age of Viagra and are accustomed to seeing commercials with frisky middle-aged couples. Nothing wrong with it.

But no penis or clitoris is an island. The second factor for men and women is general health, where the heart, lungs, arteries, veins and nervous system keep everything else working at optimal efficiency.

The third factor is psychological, how you feel about your appearance and how you perceive your partner feels about you.

“No woman wants her anatomy to change in any way.  When hair loss occurs with illness or menopause, it’s just one more darn thing.” — Elline Surinello, LeMetric Hair Center, NY

For men, performance is a matter of many things, but the quality of a guy’s erection is the lead actor. Dr. Andrew Weil, the respected Harvard Medical School-trained guru of alternative medicine and healthy aging, urges men to consider many lifestyle factors before resorting to ED drugs. Among them are:

  • Smoking (several ad campaigns with limp cigarettes drive home this point)
  • Medications (drugs to combat high cholesterol and high blood pressure such as statins can reduce erectile function)
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Anxiety, depression and stress should be addressed first with yoga, meditation and breath training
  • Talk more: Be open and honest with your partner about any pressure you’re feeling in sex
  • Exercise and eat optimally to improve cardiovascular health; a common cause of ED is restricted blood flow to the secondary sex characteristics, which Weil believes can be countered with a daily two mile walk for many men
  • Neurological, hormonal and vascular causes could be at work

To this last point, Elline Surinello, founder of LeMetric Hair Center, Inc. in New York, urges her clients to look at the total picture of one’s health. Serving the distinct needs of women with hair loss, Surianello points out how three out of seven women over age 50 have some degree of hair loss, much of it due to hormonal changes that occur in midlife. “No woman wants her anatomy to change in any way,” she says. “When hair loss occurs with illness or menopause, it’s just one more darn thing.” She encourages exercise for everyone, “but you have to negotiate with life’s limitations,” choosing the activities that can be accomplished.

For men, andropause – the male equivalent of menopause – actually begins earlier, with testosterone levels peaking before age 25, with noticeable effect by age 35. Reduced testosterone can affect mood, muscle mass, bone density and, in particular, libido. But as discussed in, a testosterone decline can be reversed through both diet and exercise. High-strength, high-intensity workouts have a much greater effect than distance-endurance sports (i.e., power lifters probably have more testosterone than marathon runners).
For actual exercises to slow age-related testosterone decline, see my article: Testosterone, Hair Loss and Working Out.

Which gets us back to volleyball players in skimpy clothing. We live with unnaturally high standards already, so when illness or lifestyle factors add pounds to your frame your confidence can only suffer. Let’s draw a direct line here: Eat right, exercise (as best fits your current condition) and you’ll not only have better sexual function, you’ll feel better about yourself with your clothes off.