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Get in Shape for Great Sex

The more fit you feel, the better you'll perform in bed

4. Manage stress

Stress can exacerbate an existing sex problem — or cause a new one from scratch. It not only reduces blood flow to the genitals, but also releases hormones that depress testosterone. Stress also paves the way for cardiovascular disease, and it raises your risk of both anxiety and depression.

How to keep these sex killers at bay? Proven stress relievers include exercise, pets, massage, laughter, meditation, hot baths, gardening, music (playing or listening) and time spent with loved ones. Ideally, combine them: Exercise with friends. Garden with your spouse. But don't try to make your cat crack a smile.

5. Quit smoking

Study after study has shown that sexual satisfaction declines as smoking increases. The mechanics responsible for that decrease are fairly straightforward: Smoking accelerates the growth of artery-narrowing deposits that reduce genital blood flow.

6. Limit alcohol

Alcohol is the leading drug cause of sexual impairment. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, it "provokes the desire, but takes away the performance." Health authorities advise limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks a day (with "a drink" being defined as one 12-ounce beer, one shot of 80-proof spirits or a half-full wine glass — about five ounces).

7. Sleep soundly

Easy for me to prescribe, right? Yet sleep problems reduce sexual energy and depress both libido and testosterone. Half of all adults experience occasional insomnia, and millions suffer chronic sleep problems. Compounding matters, sleep problems multiply with age.

Sleep needs vary from one person to the next, but experts agree that most adults need at least seven hours' sleep each night to function optimally. Regular exercise improves sleep. So do quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake.

A healthy lifestyle can't guarantee great sex, of course, but it will definitely help. And there's no contesting that it boosts longevity — an equation I like to render as "More years on the planet = more fun in the sack."

Published June 2012

You may also like: Get the truth about sex and aging.

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