Q. I’ve recently got really fit aged 45 and have completed a couple of marathons.
As a result, I’ve become more energetic in the bedroom. At first I loved it, so did my husband — but sometimes I wish he had the same stamina. It’s not that I’m not attracted to him, but I worry about our mismatched energy levels.
Exercise has significant sexual benefits for men, too. There is a direct correlation between increased physical activity and improved erectile function in middle-aged men, but a 2012 study found that increased physical activity is associated with better sexual function in men as young as 18.
The recommended level of exercise for good health is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly, plus twice-weekly strength exercises. However, a Singaporean study found that men who did 200-300 minutes a week experienced increased testosterone levels and improved sexual function.
Given all the sexual benefits, it would, of course, be great if your husband decided to join you in your training regime, but don’t hold your breath. When one half of a couple works really hard to achieve a positive lifestyle change, they rarely anticipate the possibility that their success might cause conflict in the relationship.
Individual change always affects the couple dynamic and the adjustment is not always positive, particularly if the person who has made significant life changes becomes evangelical about trying to “encourage” their partner to follow their example.
When North Carolina State University and the University of Texas at Austin did a joint study on the relationship dynamics in couples where one partner had lost an average of 27kg, it found that the person who had lost weight was more likely to talk about and encourage healthy behaviour in their partner.
If their partner was receptive to these messages, healthy changes led to more positive interactions and increased physical and emotional intimacy. However, in some cases, one partner’s new-found sense of empowerment created feelings of inadequacy or insecurity in the other partner.
Although you are understandably proud of your achievements, your husband may feel slightly overwhelmed by your increased sexual appetite, particularly if he feels he can’t keep up with you. To avoid intimidating him, it might be better to focus on health benefits instead. Even if your husband has not worn a pair of trainers in his life, minimal interventions to his diet and exercise habits can have a significant impact.
A large-scale American study carried out by the Medical University of South Carolina found that making four simple lifestyle changes in middle age had a significant effect on health. All the study’s participants were advised to quit smoking, eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, maintain a normal weight and get 30 minutes of regular exercise five days a week. After four years, participants who adopted these behaviours for the first time during the study were 40% less likely to have died and 35% less likely to have had cardiovascular disease.
Although scientists can’t explain why, regular sex also seems to have a special capacity to protect male heart health. A 10-year study of middleaged men, which was published in the British Medical Journal, found that having sex three or more times a week is associated with a 50% reduction in the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Perhaps this is because sex is a reasonable form of exercise in itself. A study that measured energy expenditure in sexual activity in 21 young healthy couples found it could burn up to 306 calories. Whether you do your jogging vertically or horizontally, it’s all good.
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