SAN FRANCISCO — Higher levels of exercise are associated with
lower levels of sexual dysfunction, according to a study of 178 healthy
Men who reported exercise of at least 9 metabolic equivalents
(METs) per week were 65% less likely to report sexual dysfunction. Brisk
walking for 30 minutes a day for 4 days per week is equivalent to about
9 METs, according to Dr. Erin R. McNamara of Duke University Medical
Center, Durham, N.C., who presented the results of her study at the
“If men won’t exercise for the cardiovascular benefits,
maybe they’ll exercise to have better sex,” Dr. McNamara said
at a news briefing.
The men in the study were all enrolled in a prospective
case-control study at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Their
mean age was 62 years, and their mean body mass index was 30.7
The sexual function survey consisted of six questions, asking men
to evaluate their ability to have an erection, the quality and frequency
of their erections, their ability to reach orgasm, their overall sexual
ability, and the extent to which they were bothered by their sexual
functioning. The investigators converted scores on the survey to a 0-100
scale. Overall, the participants’ mean sexual function score was
The men also were asked to assess their duration, intensity, and
frequency of exercise. The investigators converted these estimates to
MET hours per week. They classified men reporting fewer than 3 MET hours
per week as sedentary (53% of the sample), 3-8 MET hours as active (14%
of the sample), 9-17 MET hours as moderately active (9% of the sample),
and 18 or more MET hours as highly active (24% of the sample).
Mean sexual function scores were 42 for sedentary men, 50 for
active men, 72 for moderately active men, and 70 for highly active men.
The trend was statistically significant.
In a multivariate analysis, the investigators controlled for age,
race, BMI, heart disease, diabetes, medications, and depression. They
defined a sexual function score of less than 40 as sexual dysfunction.
Compared with sedentary men, those reporting moderate or high levels of
physical activity were 65% less likely to have sexual dysfunction.
In an interview, Dr. McNamara emphasized that her study
demonstrated only correlation, not causation. Asked to speculate on the
reason for the association, she said, “Just as exercise provides
cardiovascular benefit by increasing blood flow, we think the same thing
probably happens [with sexual function] because the penis is engorged
with blood vessels.” She also suggested that exercise may improve
sexual function as a psychological byproduct of improved feelings of
Major Finding: Exercise equivalent to 30 minutes of brisk walking
per day, 4 days per week, is associated with a 65% decrease in the risk
of sexual dysfunction.
Data Source: Study of 178 healthy men.
Disclosures: Dr. McNamara reported that she had no conflicts of
interest. The study was supported by the Department of Defense and the
Department of Veterans Affairs.
Men with moderate or high levels of physical activity were 65% less
likely to have sexual dysfunction.
FROM THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN UROLOGICAL ASSOCIATION