Linking Exercise and Sexual Satisfaction among Healthy Adults

By Marshall, Alexandra; Morris, Duston et al. | Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Annual 2014 | Go to article overview

Linking Exercise and Sexual Satisfaction among Healthy Adults


Marshall, Alexandra, Morris, Duston, Rainey, Jacquie, Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality


Introduction

Continued quality of life across the lifespan is the universal ideal for most people. The decline of biologic, cognitive, and social factors makes the concept of aging less appealing (Branch, Katz, & Kniepman, 1984). Specifically, one of the most unappealing factors related to aging is the decline in sexual functioning in people of both sexes (Masters & Johnson, 1970). For males, such loss has been related to erectile competence (Gupta et al., 2011), while the loss for females has been linked to untreated menopausal conditions and decreased social opportunities (Addis et al., 2006). Both genders report a desire for increased sexual activity. In other words, what they currently report about their sexuality is unsatisfying (Rosen et al., 2009).

One of the most important factors contributing to quality of life for adults is sexuality (Robinson & Molzahn, 2007; Gelfand, 2000). Sexuality is consistently defined to include numerous interrelated factors such as biological, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and sociocultural components (Johnson, 1998). Combined, these factors may improve healthy sexuality and overall quality of life for adults. Sexuality is a major aspect of relational intimacy and incorporates sexual health indicators such as sexual performance and sexual satisfaction (Penhollow, Young, & Denny, 2009).

Research has shown an improvement in sexual health indicators among adults, particularly unhealthy adults, such as those who suffer from obesity, COPD, dyspareunia, or erectile dysfunction, as a result of increased physical activity. For example, Dabrowska, Drosdzol, Skrzypulec and Plinta (2010) demonstrated that females with and without sexual dysfunction improved on sexual performance scores related to participation in physical activity. Research by the National Institutes of Health indicates that most cases of ED are a result of several conditions such as heart disease which impairs healthy blood flow to the penis and diabetes which impacts genital nerve function (Esposito, et al., 2004). A Harvard study of 22,086 men showed that those who exercised vigorously 30 minutes per day were two and a half times less likely to suffer from ED as compared to men who had limited exercise/PA (Bacon, Mittleman, Kawachi, Glasser, & Rimm, 2006).

However, little research has examined the relationship in sexual performance or sexual satisfaction as a result of physical activity among a broad population of healthy adults. One study by Meston (2000) addressed exercise/PA and only the female sexual response; findings from the study demonstrated that vigorous physical exercise/PA activated the woman's sexual response. Another study by Penhollow and Young (2004) showed that specifically college-aged adults indicated that above average levels of fitness improved perceptions of sexual performance and sexual desirability. Bortz and Wallace (1999) demonstrated that improved fitness showed a strong positive correlation for sexual satisfaction among men.

The current study contributed to the literature by examining the relationship in sexual satisfaction as a result of exercise/PA among healthy adults. It was of particular interest to explore the relationship between frequency, intensity, duration, and mode of exercise/PA and sexual satisfaction of both men and women ages 18 to 74. The researchers identified four different exercise/PA performance indicators (i.e. frequency, intensity, duration and mode) that were associated with self-reported levels of improved sexual satisfaction.

While practitioners often speak about how exercise can reduce problems, such as managing Type II diabetes (Kashfi, Jeihooni, Rezaianzedeh, & Amini, 2012) or alleviating stress (Koplas, Shilling & Harper, 2012), it is important for health care providers/practitioners to consider the holistic benefits of exercise. The Health Belief Model (HBM) provides a conceptual framework for understanding a patient/client's perceived benefits as it relates to the adoption of healthy behavior (Glanz, Rimer, & Viswanath, 2008). …

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