Exercise: key to good sex, good sleep

It is renowned that exercise helps with weight loss, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and reducing the level of risk for such conditions as osteoporosis and diabetes. But beside mainstream benefits, there's a lot more people may not be aware of.

As summer begins - and many contemplate a trip to the gym - take a look at a few of the other benefits of exercise.

Good night's sleep

An active lifestyle might also mean a more restful sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that exercise in the afternoon can help deepen shut-eye and cut the time it takes for you to fall into dreamland. But, they caution, vigorous exercise leading up to bedtime can actually have the reverse effects.

A 2003 study, however, found that a morning fitness regime was key to a better snooze. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center concluded that postmenopausal women who exercised 30 minutes every morning had less trouble falling asleep than those who were less active. The women who worked out in the evening hours saw little or no improvement in their sleep patterns.

No studies have proven conclusively the best time to exercise, says Comana, but the benefits of "a better ability to fall asleep and a more restful sleep when you do - there's unanimous agreement on that".

Better Sex

If a well-rested, smarter and nonsmoking self is not enough, exercise has also been linked to a better sex life. Poor general health can lead to poor sexual function, so keeping fit only helps maintain or revitalise performance and satisfaction in the bedroom.

After studying more than 31,000 men, the Harvard School of Public Health researchers reported that those who were physically active had a 30 percent lower risk for erectile dysfunction than the men with little or no physical activity.

Women reap the exercise benefits, too. One study by the University of British Columbia found that 20 minutes of exercise spurred greater sexual response in the women participants compared with no exercise at all.

And overall, people who exercise regularly feel better about themselves, feel more sexually desirable and report higher levels of satisfaction, according to a study in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality.

Along with these lesser-known benefits, exercise also promotes health in a myriad of tiny detailed ways, says Comana, with increased "coordination, flexibility and greater efficiency in daily activities".

Source: IHRSA Newsletter - Amy Cox (CNN), June 20, 2006