All About Sex

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Get In Shape for Great Sex

A healthy lifestyle out of bed heats things up between the sheets.

Want hot sex? Beyond a loving relationship, lovers’ physical condition is key. Physiologically, enjoyable sex requires:

• A healthy nervous system to feel erotic pleasure.

• A healthy heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular system) so sufficient blood flows into the genitals for erection or vaginal lubrication.

• Deep relaxation so the nervous and cardiovascular systems function at their best.

 

How can you gain these benefits? By following standard health advice:

• Exercise daily.

• Eat at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and limit meats, cheese, fast foods, and junk foods.

• Maintain recommended weight.

• Manage stress.

• Don’t smoke.

• Limit alcohol.

Sleep soundly.

 

Exercise Daily

Massachusetts researchers surveyed 1,709 men over 40. As exercise increased, sex problems decreased. Women also report improved sex with regular exercise.

Exercise increases blood flow into the genitals. It boosts testosterone, which fuels libido in both genders. It also elevates mood, reduces insomnia, helps control weight, promotes deep relaxation, minimizes menopausal discomforts, and contributes to self-esteem, all of which enhance libido and sexual satisfaction.

How you exercise doesn’t matter. Do anything you enjoy: walking, swimming, yoga, dancing, golf, gardening—whatever. Just do it at least 30 minutes a day.

Regularity is more important than intensity. It’s better for health and sex to take 45-minute walks daily than to hike five miles twice a month.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Want to do it like a rabbit? Then eat carrots like Bugs Bunny.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant nutrients that contribute to cardiovascular and neurological health. In contrast, meats, cheese, fast foods, junk foods, and whole-milk dairy products are low in antioxidants and high in cholesterol and saturated fat that narrow the arteries, limiting blood flow into the genitals. University of South Carolina researchers checked the cholesterol levels of 3,250 men, and then surveyed their sex lives. As their cholesterol increased, so did their reports of sex problems.

Include fruit with breakfast. Eat at least one salad a day. Snack on fruit. And one night a week, dine on vegetable soup. Make a big pot and you also get a few lunches.

Maintain Recommended Weight

Many overweight adults enjoy sex. But the research is clear: Weight loss improves sexual pleasure.

Duke researchers surveyed the sexual impact of weight loss among obese adults. Moderate loss—10 to 30 pounds—boosted their libidos, sexual function, and erotic satisfaction. Brown researchers surveyed 32 seriously overweight adults starting a weight-loss program. After losing an average of 56 pounds, most reported more sex and greater erotic satisfaction.

It’s tough to lose weight, but guess what helps? Daily exercise and a diet full of fruits and veggies. Exercise burns calories, and plant foods are filling but low in fat and calories.

Avoid crash diets. Instead, embrace modest changes for life, for example, daily walks, fruit with breakfast, and once a week, vegetable soup for dinner. A reasonable goal is two pounds a month, which means 24 pounds in a year.

Manage Stress

Stress often contributes to sex problems. It reduces blood flow into the genitals, and releases hormones that depress testosterone. It contributes to cardiovascular disease, and raises risk of anxiety and depression, all sex killers.

Proven stress relievers include: exercise, pets, massage, laughter, meditation, hot baths, gardening, music (playing or listening), and time with loved ones. Ideally, combine them: Exercise with friends. Garden with your spouse.

Quit Smoking

Many studies show that as smoking increases, sexual satisfaction decreases. Smoking accelerates growth of the artery-narrowing deposits that reduce genital blood flow. If you smoke, your doctor can help you quit.

Limit Alcohol

Alcohol is the leading drug cause of sexual impairment. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, it “provokes the desire, but takes away the performance.” Health authorities advise limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks a day. A "drink" is one 12-ounce beer, one shot of 80-proof spirits, or five ounces of wine, a standard wine glass half full.

Sleep Soundly

Sleep problems reduce sexual energy and depresses libido and testosterone. Half of adults experience occasional insomnia, and millions suffer chronic sleep problems. Sleep problems typically increase with age.

Sleep needs vary, but experts agree that to function optimally, most adults need at least seven hours a night. Regular exercise improves sleeps. Quitting smoking also helps—nicotine is a stimulant. Limiting alcohol helps, too—alcohol disrupts sleep.

Of course, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee great sex, but it definitely helps¬—and it contributes to longevity so you’re likely to enjoy better sex for more years.

 

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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