Can exercise make you sexier? – includes related article

Phillip Whitten

Can Exercise Make You Sexier?

The common wisdom about exercise and sexuality is contradictory. On the one hand, we have been hearing since the 1970s that exercise makes you sexier. But at the same time, we hear that working out saps the libido, dulls the desire. So which is true?

Answer: Both. Our small study provides the first scientific evidence that regular exercise can indeed dramatically improve your love life, whether you’re 40, 60 or older. But the same study also shows that too much exercise diminishes sexual appetite.

Going further, we now find that the love partners of the people we studied confirm their reports of increased sexual activity from moderate exercise. In fact, the partners gave them even higher marks than they gave themselves.

We studied two sets of swimmers: a group of men and women in their 40s and another in their 60s. The 160 swimmers in the study train and compete at the Masters level against others their age. All of them were at a much higher health and fitness level than seen in other studies of sexuality. We also interviewed a number of their partners.

On average the swimmers trained about an hour a day, four or five days a week. But their training regiments varied greatly, with some–mostly men–swimming two to three hours daily, six days a week. This variation was fortunate because, if exercise does contribute to a better sex life, we would know if more exercise makes sex better still.

Our study clearly demonstrates that regular exercise can imporve your love life. The men and women in our study reported sex lives more like those of people in their 60s reported sex lives comparable to those in their 40s.

That’s a striking contrast to past studies of age and sexuality that have shown a decline in the frequency of sexual intercourse and other sexual activities as we get older. Alfred Kinsey, most notably, documented such a decrease in sexual activity with age–although he also reported that interest in sex continues into late adulthood.

The New Exercise-Sex Link

We were not convinced that a decline in sexuality is inevitable for people entering their 30s and 40s–or their 60s. If there is an ebbing of passion, we suspected it has more to do with cultural expectations and poor health than with years. And that, indeed, turns out to be the case. Specifics: . 97% of those in their 40s and 92% of those in their 60s said they were sexually active–very high compared to what research has suggested about the sex lives of the general population over 40. . The frequency of intercourse among these swimmers 40 and over was similar to that reported by many people in their 20s and 30s–about seven times a month. And the frequency did not drop off; the swimmers in their 60s were nearly as active as those in their 40s. . Not only are these people making love more, they’re enjoying it–94% like sex a lot. . 80% of the swimmers rated themselves as attractive or very attractive. None rated themselves as below average. These are people with high self-esteem. . And perhaps even more interesting, spouses and lovers of the swimmers rated them as even more attractive than the swimmers rated themselves.

How Much Exercise Is Too Much?

Does more and more exercise lead to an ever-more-bountiful sex life? Sorry, workout fanatics. Our data provide no support for such a connection. Indeed, there appears to be a threshold beyond which additional training fails to enhance sexuality. The threshold comes early, at the lower levels of training–about three days a week, 45 minutes a day.

For those who trained hardest of all–18 hours or more a week–we did find a relationship. A negative one. For both men and women, extremely rigorous training actually diminishes sexual desire. This shouldn’t be surprising. These people are mature adults, most of them with family and career obligations, and when they take on 18 to 20 hours of training, they soon feel exhausted. They have little time or energy for lovemaking.

So the message is plain: Beyond moderate exercise, if you want to improve your sex life, spend more time with your partner, not in the pool.

What Creates the

Exercise Effect?

Some of our findings were picked up by the press last year at a professional conference. Since then we have been at work on the causes of the exercise effect on sex.

Although there is the possibility of some kind of hormonal link between exercise and sexual desire, we have not come up with any convincing evedence. Psychosocial factors are probably more important.

The swimmers we studied see a lot of evidence that they are forestalling the normal aging process. They’re stronger and have more endurance than they did before they began training. They socialize with people like themselves, people with appealing, fit bodies, and get a lot of positive feedback about their own attractiveness–especially from their partners. It’s no wonder they feel sexy.

American Health magazine’s series of Gallup polls showed that active Americans are driven by a common goal: to be their best and look it. They believe exercise can transform their lives. When it comes to sexuality and passion, our results say they’re right.

COPYRIGHT 1989 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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