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One More Reason for Men to Stay Active

For years, heath promoters have been racking their brains trying to come up with persuasive reasons for Americans to be more physically active.

Well here's a new one that's sure to get some attention: Men who exercise are less likely to experience sexual dysfunction as they get older.

Analyzing data from surveys of nearly 32,000 men ages 53 to 90, researchers concluded that men who were the most physically active were least likely to become impotent.

According to Eric B. Rimm, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, men who ran at least three hours per week appeared to have the sexual functioning of men two to five years younger.

But even moderate activity proved beneficial: Men who briskly walked for 30 minutes, most days of the week, had a 15 to 20 percent reduction in the risk of erectile dysfunction.

Fewer than 25 percent of Americans get enough exercise, so it is not surprising that sexual dysfunction is a common complaint, particularly among older men.

However, some doctors believe that impotence could be considered an early warning sign of what could happen to the heart.

Exercise appears to benefit the small arteries that control erections, which is the same reason that exercise is good for the heart- it benefits the arteries that feed the heart. And while many men appear unconcerned about heart health, chances are they may be more motivated to do something about the health of their sex lives.

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2003; 129, 161-168