A growing body of evidence substantiates the view that regular exercise may enhance sexuality through various mechanisms that affect both the mind and body. Regular exercise can enhance sexuality through the benefits gained in muscle strength, endurance and heart functioning. Research indicates that regular exercise may increase sexual drive, sexual activity and sexual satisfaction.
Results of one study reported that women were more sexually responsive following 20 minutes of vigorous exercise.1 Among men, exercise is linked with increased testosterone (male hormone) levels, which may stimulate sexual interest and behavior. Another study found that men over 50 years of age, who are physically active, had a 30% lower risk of impotence when compared with inactive men.2 Frequent exercise and higher levels of physical fitness seem to improve perception of sexual performance and sexual desirability.
Exercise frequency and physical fitness increase energy levels and enhance attractiveness, which make people feel better about themselves.3 Therefore, people who regularly exercise have a better perception of themselves, are more confident in their physical abilities, and find themselves more sexually attractive— all of which add to increased competency in love making. Conditioning of the body and its muscle groups allow for greater flexibility, making sexual activity more enjoyable. These people also experience higher levels of satisfaction.
- Stanten, N, Yeager S. Four Workouts to Improve Your Love Life. Prevention. 2003; 55: 76–78.
- Bacon CG, Mittleman MA, Kawachi I. Sexual Function in Men Older than 50 Years of Age: Results from the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study. Ann Intern Med. 2003; 139: 161–168.
- Penhollow TM, Young M. Sexual Desirability and Sexual Performance: Does Exercise and Fitness Really Matter? Electronic J Hum Sexuality. 2004; 7.
Women who undergo menopause face many changes that may lead to loss of health-related fitness. Regular exercise has been highly promoted and recognized as the best non-medical treatment for postmenopausal problems. Exercise can reduce severe symptoms in menopausal women and improve their fitness level and quality of life.1 Exercise-induced improvements in heart and respiratory system seemed to have a direct effect on the quality of life in postmenopausal women.2
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University examined the effects of a four-month exercise trial (regular walking or yoga) on mental health outcomes in previously low-active middle-aged women, and they concluded that regular exercise enhances mood and mental health outcomes during menopause.2 The improvements in heart and respiratory fitness were said to have a positive impact on the quality of life of these women.
In addition, a study by German researchers on the effect of an intense exercise program on physical fitness, coronary heart disease, bone mineral density (BMD) and parameters related to quality of life in early postmenopausal women has shown that intense exercise training can be effective in improving strength, endurance, quality of life parameters and even BMD in postmenopausal women.3
- Teoman N, Ozcan A, Acar B. The Effect of Exercise on Physical Fitness and Quality of Life in Postmenopausal Women. Maturitas. 2004; 47(1): 71–77.
- Elavsky S, McAuley E. Physical Activity and Mental Health OutcomesDuring Menopause: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Behav Med. 2007; 33(2): 132–142.
- Kemmler W, Engelke K, Lauber D, Weineck J, Hensen J. Exercise Effects on Fitness and Bone Mineral Density in Early Postmenopausal Women: 1-year EFOPS Results. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002; 34(12): 2115–2123.
A healthy exercise routine combined with a balanced diet is an excellent way to improve fertility associated with ovary-related disorders in women. Exercise reduces high stress levels linked to the development of heart and blood vessel diseases and depression, which subsequently can have negative effects on female ovulation (formation of eggs in the ovary) and menstruation.
A 2007 study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who exercise and eat a balanced diet containing reduced amounts of saturated fats, more dairy products and less meat had less ovulation problems.1 A more recent study on a group of infertile, obese women has shown that a 12-week program of specific diet and exercise has favorable effect on the metabolic and menstrual parameters in these women.2
Evidence-based guidelines also indicate that a regular exercise routine before and during gestation is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. In addition to maintaining physical fitness, a healthy exercise routine may also be beneficial in preventing or treating many diseases affecting the mother and her child growing in the womb.3
Furthermore, some specific yoga postures may increase fertility, as these postures help to stimulate the blood flow to the reproductive system, stimulate ovulation and make the uterus healthier for conception.4 Therefore, this type of physical activity can also be used as an adjunct to infertility treatment.
- Available online at: http://www.dancewithshadows.com/society/fertility-lifestyle.asp. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Miller PB, Forstein DA, Styles S. Effect of Short-term Diet and Exercise on Hormone Levels and Menses in Obese, Infertile Women. J Reprod Med. 2008; 53(5): 315–319.
- Weissgerber TL, Wolfe LA, Davies GA, Mottola MF. Exercise in the Prevention and Treatment of Maternal-fetal Disease: A Review of the Literature. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006; 31(6): 661–674.
- Khalsa HK. Yoga: An Adjunct to Infertility Treatment. Fertil Steril. 2003; 80(Suppl 4): 46–51.
Exercise is a key strategy employed in the rehabilitation of HIV/AIDS patients in order to address problems such as bodily impairments (pain or weakness), activity limitations (such as inability to walk) and participation restrictions (problems faced in life situations such as inability to work). In addition, exercise has clinically significant effects on immune responsiveness (the body’s ability to oppose infections) of HIV-infected patients, causing a slowdown on the progression of the disease.
An analysis on the safety and effectiveness of aerobic exercise interventions in adults living with HIV/AIDS confirmed that aerobic exercise is safe and beneficial for HIV/AIDS patients. The study noted improvements in the immune response, heart and lung functions and psychological behavior in those individuals studied. 1 Similarly, another study stated that aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes at a minimum of three times per week for four weeks appears to be beneficial and safe for adults living with HIV/AIDS.2 Further, supervised aerobic exercise training has also been shown to safely decrease fatigue, weight, and fat reduction in HIV-infected individuals.3
The benefits of aerobic exercising may result from the direct effect on immune response adjustment (exercise boosts the immune system) or from the psychological effects of exercise. Regular physical exercise helps to slow HIV progression and raise HIV patients’ blood count of certain specialized cells known as CD4 cells. CD4 is a type of white blood cell that helps in protection against infections and is specifically targeted by HIV. The higher the CD4 count in the blood, the better the ability of the patients to resist infections.
- Nixon S, O’Brien K, Glazier RH, Tynan AM. Aerobic Exercise Interventions for Adults Living with HIV/AIDS. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005; (2): CD001796.
- O’Brien K, Nixon S, Tynan AM, Glazier RH. Effectiveness of Aerobic Exercise in Adults Living with HIV/AIDS: Systematic Review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004; 36(10): 1659–1666.
- Smith BA, Neidig JL, Nickel JT, Mitchell GL, Para MF, et al. Aerobic Exercise: Effects on Parameters Related to Fatigue, Dyspnea, Weight and Body Composition in HIV-infected Adults. AIDS. 2001; 15(6): 693–701.
Regular sessions of moderate exercise has been linked to an improvement in the body’s defense (immune) system, which could protect individuals against infections of the throat and nose (commonly referred to as parts of the upper respiratory tract). 1 People who exercise regularly report fewer incidences of colds than those who lead sedentary lifestyles. Regular, consistent, moderate exercise can lead to substantial benefits in the immune system over the long term. Nevertheless, this benefit is not seen when people are doing intense exercise, as it may cause a temporary decrease in immune system function.
A long-term study in Columbia has demonstrated a 23% reduction in risk of upper respiratory tract infection in those engaging in regular physical activity compared to those who engage in irregular moderate-to-vigorous exercise.2 In addition, a recent study on the effect of exercise on the immune system of healthy older adults suggested that regular aerobic exercise appears to benefit the immune system by helping to balance the responses of the immune system and reducing the symptoms of inflammation.3
There are physiological changes in the immune system as a response to regular, moderate exercise. During moderate exercise, the immune cells circulate through the body more rapidly and have a better ability to kill the infecting pathogens (disease-causing bacteria or virus). Although the immune system returns to pre-exercise levels immediately after the exercise session, each session represents an expansion in the immune system surveillance, and this cumulative effect appears to reduce the risk of infection over the long-term.
- Jeurissen A, Bossuyt X, Ceuppens JL, Hespel P. The Effects of Physical Exercise on the Immune System. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2003; 147(28): 1347–1351. Article in Dutch.
- Matthews CE, Ockene IS, Freedson PS, Rosal MC, Herbert JR, et al. Physical Activity and Risk of Upper-respiratory Tract Infection. Med Sci Sports Exercise. 2000; 32: S292.
- Haaland DA, Sabljic TF, Baribeau DA, Mukovozov IM, Hart LE. Is Regular Exercise a Friend or Foe of the Aging Immune System? A Systematic Review. Clin J Sport Med. 2008; 18(6): 539–548.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) refers to a group of disorders commonly characterized by extreme tiredness (fatigue) that lasts for a long time and restricts the ability to perform everyday chores. Muscle aches, body ache and joint pains may also be noted in individuals suffering from CFS. Long-term physical inactivity can further complicate the symptoms of CFS and have detrimental effects on mood, energy level and an increase in the occurrence of other related disorders. A guided exercise program is the usually recommended intervention in such fatigue conditions. 1
In patients with CFS, a guided exercise program (that involves monitoring and documenting a person’s daily activity levels to establish a threshold point for experiencing chronic fatigue symptoms) was found to be an effective treatment in improving exercise and functional capacity, reducing fatigue syndromes and improving daily function.2
In a review of several studies by researcher M. Edmonds with the Cochrane Collaboration research group, both fatigue and quality of life in individuals suffering from CFS were shown to be improved with three months of health fitness exercise therapy. Patients who were on health fitness exercise therapy were less fatigued, less depressed, had better physical functioning, slept better and were able to work better, compared with patients who did not exercise. Compared to patients who were taking antidepressant as their only therapy, those who exercised had lesser fatigue and a better quality of life.3
- Wallman KE, Morton AR, Goodman C, Grove R. Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Med J Aust. 2005; 183(3): 142–143.
- Greenberg S, Frid M. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—Exercise and Physical Activity. Harefuah. 2006; 145(4): 276–2780, 318. Article in Hebrew.
- Exercise Therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Available online at: http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab003200.html. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
Constipation is a common disorder of the digestive system that is often affects individuals for a long period of time and has a negative impact on the daily lives of such people. Persistent difficulty with bowel movements may lead to severe complications such as fecal impaction (accumulation of hard feces in the rectum that is difficult to expell without assistance) and life-threatening situations such as volvulus (twisting of a part of the bowel).
One of the key risk factors for constipation is physical inactivity. Regular exercise can help in reducing and preventing the incidence of constipation. Physical activity helps to tone and strengthen the muscles of the large bowel. It also helps to decrease the time taken for food to move through the large intestine, thus limiting the amount of water absorbed from the stool during the transition period.
Regular exercise may also relieve constipation in patients who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, a functional bowel disorder characterized by mild to severe abdominal pain, bloating and alteration of bowel habits.1 In a study at University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom, a 12-week exercise intervention program significantly reduced constipation and bloating symptoms in individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
A team of researchers from the Netherlands, led by a scientist known as A. M. De Schryver, concluded that, in middle-aged inactive people with constipation, it is advisable to promote regular physical activity. They noted that exercise would improve both the motility (capacity of demonstrating movement by independent means) of the intestines and the time taken for the stool to pass in the lower part of the intestine, thereby alleviating the symptoms of constipation.2
- Daley AJ, Grimmett C, Roberts L, Wilson S, Fatek M, et al. The Effects of Exercise upon Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients Diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Sports Med. 2008; 29(9): 778–782.
- De Schryver AM, Keulemans YC, Peters HP, Akkermans LM, Smout AJ, De Vries WR, et al. Effects of Regular Physical Activity on Defecation Pattern in Middle-aged Patients Complaining of Chronic Constipation. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2005; 40(4): 422–429.
Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by pain and swelling in the affected joints. This condition is usually limited to certain specific joints such as the knees, hips or spine. Exercise can play a vital role in the management of arthritis. Regular physical activity can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, reduce bone loss and may help control joint swelling and pain. Regular activity increases lubrication to the supporting tissues of the joint and reduces pain and stiffness in these tissues.1
There are three main types of exercise that can be beneficial in arthritis:
- Range-of-motion exercises that help to reduce stiffness and keep the joints flexible.
- Strengthening exercises that help to maintain or increase muscle strength.
- Fitness exercises that help to increase endurance.
Physical activity need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits. Older adults can obtain significant health benefits with moderate amounts of physical activity, preferably on a regular basis. The Arthritis Foundation recommends that active range of motion exercises be performed 1 to 2 times daily while strengthening training can be done 2 to 3 times per week. Fitness exercise is recommended 3 to 5 times per week.2 Range of motion exercises such as shoulder circles, leg swings and lying knee-to-chest pulls will improve the flexibility of joints and prevent gradual losses in motion.
In an extreme condition, a joint may need to be replaced completely to cure the painful joint condition.
Exercise is the cornerstone of rehabilitation therapy following total joint replacement for arthritis. Evidence shows that increased bone quality will improve fixation of the artificial joint and reduce the incidence of early loosening.3 Additionally, preoperative exercise prior to total joint replacement has been documented to significantly reduce the need of rehabilitation procedures following surgery.4
- The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Role of Exercise in Arthritis. http://www.hopkins-arthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/exercise.html. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Arthritis Foundation. Exercise and Arthritis. http://www.arthritis.org/exercise-intro.php. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Kuster MS. Exercise Recommendations After Total Joint Replacement: A Review of the Current Literature and Proposal of Scientifically-based Guidelines. Sports Med. 2002; 32(7): 433–445.
- Rooks DS, Huang J, Bierbaum BE, Bolus SA, Rubano J, et al. Effect of Preoperative Exercise on Measures of Functional Status in Men and Women Undergoing Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty. Arthritis Rheum. 2006; 55(5): 700–708.
Back pain is very common among adults and is often caused by muscle strain or injury. Regular exercise therapy, including stretching or strengthening may improve pain and function in individuals suffering low back pain for prolonged durations.1 Regular exercise may not only help decrease low back pain but may also prevent re-injury to the back, help in faster recovery and reduce the risk of disability from back pain. Some sources recommend that these exercises be done under appropriate supervised physical training.
A 2005 Swiss study concerning the long-term effects of exercise therapy in prevention of low back pain has shown that supervised exercise can effectively improve functional ability and reduce low back pain up to a period of one year.2 More recently, another study by Finnish researchers confirmed this long-term benefit of exercise by indicating that home-based exercise programs can reduce low back pain and the beneficial effects can be seen to last over five years.3
Other than reducing the need for physical therapy, doctor referrals and pain medication prescriptions, regular low-to-moderate aerobic exercise appears to improve the mood and work capacity in individuals suffering from low back pain.4 Exercises to reduce low back pain are not complicated and can be done at home without any special equipment. However, these exercises should be performed under appropriate supervised physical training to prevent further complications and to obtain maximum relief.
- Hayden JA, van Tulder MW, Tomlinson G. Systematic Review: Strategies for Using Exercise Therapy to Improve Outcomes in Chronic Low Back Pain. Ann Intern Med. 2005; 142(9): 776–785.
- Maul I, Läubli T, Oliveri M, Krueger H. Long-term Effects of Supervised Physical Training in Secondary Prevention of Low BackPain. Eur Spine J. 2005; 14(6): 599–611.
- Kuukkanen T, Mälkiä E, Kautiainen H, Pohjolainen T. Effectiveness of a Home Exercise Programme in Low Back Pain: A Randomized Five-year Follow-up Study. Physiother Res Int. 2007; 12(4): 213–224.
- Sculco AD, Paup DC, Fernhall B, Sculco MJ. Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Low Back Pain Patients in Treatment. Spine J. 2001; 1(2): 95–101.