Healthy Beginnings

Sexual Wellness through Physical Activity

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Sexual health is fundamental to the health and happiness of people throughout our lifespan. When we enjoy a fulfilled sexual lifestyle, it has a positive impact on our overall wellbeing, through influencing the physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions of our lives. Physical wellness is positively affected by daily physical activity, healthy food choices, and adequate sleep, while minimizing the risks associated with illness and injury.

A lack of physical activity contributes to muscle aches, pains and injury. The World Health Organization reports 60 percent to 85 percent of the worldwide population does not get enough physical activity, making sedentary lifestyle the fourth-leading risk factor for global mortality (death), behind high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose.

When it comes to sexual performance, a sedentary lifestyle is a proven contributor for erectile dysfunction. Moderate physical activity enhances the ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Blood flow into the penis is directly related to keeping arteries healthy. Erectile dysfunction is strongly associated with heart disease risk factors of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes (60 percent will have erectile dysfunction at some point) and smoking.

Research shows that women who are physically active have greater sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction than women with low physical activity; this is not meant to discount the psychological component of sexual arousal in women. Exercise contributes to increased blood flow to the vulva. Women with a sedentary lifestyle have a higher risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. Older sedentary women — those sitting greater than 10 hours per day — age more rapidly than physically active women.

The main contributing factor to the significant increase in sedentary lifestyle is technology. The positive news is that anyone can create new healthy habits. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily but understand that this is not enough to counteract an entire day of sitting (including watching television at home), so move often and throughout the day. Walk at lunch and use a sit-stand desk, treadmill-desk or bicycle-desk.

It is possible to decrease the risk for erectile dysfunction through exercising daily, as well as minimizing fatty foods, eating more vegetables\fruit, limiting alcohol consumption and stopping smoking. Women can also improve their sexual and physical wellness through making these same healthy lifestyle choices.

Research demonstrates that daily physical activity is integral to our overall wellness, beginning when we are young and continuing into our 80s and 90s. Exercise increases blood flow overall, which explains improved sexual function and sexual satisfaction in both men and women.

Other benefits of exercise on sexual wellness are the increased likelihood of feeling desirable, and the positive influence of improved strength, stamina and flexibility on sexual performance. The long-term effects of exercise can improve self-esteem, body image and body satisfaction, all related to positive influences in a person’s sexuality and sexual wellbeing.

If your sexual wellness is in peak condition, continue with your healthy and physically active lifestyle. Clear and positive communication and respect is key to healthy intimacy and sexuality. For any problems affecting your sexual wellness, address issues immediately, support your partner and use a team approach of a physical therapist specializing in pelvic health, a physician, a counselor or even a sex therapist.

Everyone deserves satisfying and vibrant sexual wellness. Make it happen for you or your partner by starting your exercise program today.

Dr. Karla Moore

Dr. Karla Moore is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, specializing in pelvic health and persistent pain. She is owner of NeuroFit Wellness & Physical Therapy in Reno. Contact her at drkarladpt@renoneurofit.com or 775-360-5700. Visit www.RenoNeuroFit.com to learn more.