Posted on Apr 14, 2020, 5 p.m.
Sexual dysfunction can take its toll on the quality of life for both men and women, and at least one form will affect 40-50% of women and among men the probability increases with age from 10% at the age of 40 to 50% at the age of 70.
According to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine these problems are less common among those who are physically active, engaging in cardiovascular training on a weekly basis. University of California researchers designed this study to examine whether increased levels of exercise could protect against sexual dysfunction, more precisely cardiovascular activities such as biking, swimming, and running and the effects on erectile dysfunction in men as well as orgasm satisfaction and arousal in women.
Data from an international online survey involving 3,906 men and 2,264 women who were active swimmers, cyclists, and runners was used in which the participants provided detailed information on the time spent doing an activity, average speed, distance, and how many times a week they exercised; this information was compared to what they reported on their sexual activity.
A positive effect of physical activity was seen for both genders concerning sexual dysfunction levels such as men who cycled for 10 hours per week had 22% lower odds than those cycling less than 2 hours, and women reported less orgasm dissatisfaction and arousal difficulty. The women in this study had lower scores of sexual dysfunction than the general population which supports the hypothesis of physical activity playing a role in lower levels of sexual dysfunction as this sampling was more physically active than the average woman.
Various explanations may account for these findings, possible mechanisms include improved/better blood flow to the penis/clitoris, greater pelvic floor muscle strength, or that physical activity is associated with prevention of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity and these same conditions are associated with increased risk of sexual dysfunction. Thus exercise may be improving sexual function by reducing risk of these medical conditions.
According to the researchers “Men and women at risk for sexual dysfunction regardless of physical activity level may benefit by exercising more rigorously. In addition to encouraging sedentary populations to begin exercising as previous studies suggest, it also might prove useful to encourage active patients to exercise more rigorously to improve their sexual functioning.”
Additional research is encouraged to include less active reference groups, factors such as mood and depression, menopausal status, hormone therapy, as well as other known psychological benefits of exercise to help shed more light onto the relationship between physical activity and sexual dysfunction.
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