Men who exercise more have better erectile and sexual function, regardless of race, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
While past studies have highlighted the relationship between better erectile function and exercise, African-American men have been underrepresented in this literature.
“This study is the first to link the benefits of exercise in relation to improved erectile and sexual function in a racially diverse group of patients,” said Adriana Vidal, PhD, senior author of the study and investigator in the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute and Department of Surgery.
Nearly 300 study participants self-reported their activity levels, which researchers then categorized as sedentary, mildly active, moderately active or highly active. The subjects also self-reported their sexual function, including the ability to have erections, orgasms, the quality and frequency of erections and overall sexual function.
Results found that men who reported more frequent exercise, a total of 18 metabolic equivalents, or METS, per week, had higher sexual function scores, regardless of race. MET hours reflect both the total time of exercise and the intensity of exercise. A total of 18 METS can be achieved by combining exercises with different intensities, but is the equivalent of two hours of strenuous exercise, such as running or swimming, 3.5 hours of moderate exercise, or six hours of light exercise.
Regular exercise can improve your health in many ways. Along with improving erectile function, exercise can:
Strengthen the heart.
Build energy levels.
Lower blood pressure.
Improve muscle tone and strength.
Strengthen and build bones.
Help reduce body fat.
Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression.
Boost self-image and self-esteem.
Make you feel more relaxed and rested.
Make you look fit and healthy.
To get the most benefit, you should exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes, preferably on most days of the week. If you are a beginner, exercise for a few minutes each day and build up to 30 minutes. Discuss starting an exercise program with your doctor.
In contrast, men of any ethnicity who exercised less reported lower levels of sexual function. Additional contributors to low sexual function included diabetes, older age, past or current smoking and coronary artery disease.
Stephen Freedland, MD, co-author on the study and director of the Center for Integrated Research in Cancer and Lifestyle in the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, cautions that exercise should be tailored for each individual.
Erectile Dysfunction Basics
Frustrating and embarrassing, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem that occurs in many men, and for many reasons. ED is often caused by physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and low testosterone. Other causes may include psychological issues, blood flow problems, hormonal fluctuations, and nerve damage.
Treating ED with medications like sildenafil (Viagra) isn’t your only option. A study from the University of the West, UK, found that pelvic exercises helped 40 percent of men with ED regain normal erectile function, and an additional 33.5 percent significantly improve erectile function.
Pelvic floor exercises improve the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and are more commonly known as “Kegel” exercises. Women perform Kegels in preparation for and to regain muscle tone after childbirth. Kegels also promote urinary continence and sexual health.
Kegel exercises can benefit men as well. In particular, they help to strengthen the bulbocavernosus muscle. This important muscle does three jobs: it allows the penis to engorge with blood during erection, it pumps during ejaculation, and it helps empty the urethra after urination.
“When it comes to exercise, there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” said Freedland, who also serves as co-director of the Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program. “However, we are confident that even some degree of exercise, even if less intense, is better than no exercise at all.”
Whether you’re in your early 20s or early 80s, exercise that’s regular and sensible can only enhance your sex life. A survey of more than 400 college students published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality found that young people who exercise regularly are especially satisfied with their attractiveness and their sexual functioning.
The benefits can be even more dramatic as people age. A study of more than 30,000 men in their 50s and beyond found that regular vigorous exercise is associated with a 30 percent lower risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), compared to men who exercised little or not at all. The same study also found high rates of ED in men who watch a lot of television.
seriously ill people may be able to use exercise to add a spark to their sex lives. A small study published in the International Journal of Cardiology suggests that moderate exercise revitalized men with well-controlled heart failure. Thirty men rode stationary bikes for one hour, three times a week for eight weeks. Another group of 29 men didn’t exercise. When the study was over, the cycling group reported improvement in their relationships with their partners, not to mention stronger erections and more sexual activity. (If you have heart disease or another serious illness, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.)
For the most part, there’s no need to tailor your exercise routine to your sex life. Any exercise you get - walking or swimming, weight lifting or bicycling - will help. Women may want to try Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Find these muscles by stopping urine in mid-flow. To do the exercises, squeeze the muscles to a count of four, then relax for a count of four. Try doing it for five minutes at a time, twice a day.
It may take a few months to notice results, but eventually Kegel exercises can increase the intensity of orgasms, and they can also help prevent incontinence. That’s a workout with a definite payoff.
Citation: The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2015 March: The Association of Exercise with Both Erectile and Sexual Function in Black and White Men.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Journal of Sexual Medicine