Men who fear the gym and take great pride in their “dad-bods” may have a reason to celebrate. A new study on the link between exercise and libido suggests that men who go on strenuous, extensive workouts may not have a strong sex drive when compared to those who aren’t exactly the type you’d call a “gym buff.” But that doesn’t also mean that you should let physical fitness fall by the wayside, as the study suggests.
The association between exercise and libido/sex drive has been explored on studies for several years, the New York Times wrote. But a lot of these studies have been geared toward female subjects, including analyses of how female marathon runners tend to experience menstrual issues after going through an intensive training regimen. These research projects have proven that these issues are rare, and typically get resolved once a woman starts exercising less.
In the past, studies on male subjects have offered a few clues that moderate physical activity increases the creation of testosterone, which is the hormone most commonly associated with male sex drive. But since too much of a good thing is almost always not good after all, smaller studies have pointed to long and intense workouts as having the potential to stunt testosterone levels, not only for the meantime, but also on a more sustained, long-term basis.
A team of University of North Carolina researchers began work on the new study after noticing that there indeed weren’t too many papers exploring the relationship between different levels of exercise and the male libido. According to SF Gate, he researchers passed around one questionnaire to about 1,100 physically active men, asking them about their sex habits and beliefs, and gave the men another list of questions, this time solely focusing on their exercise habits.
As it turned out, those who take part in light to moderate exercise generally have a higher sex drive than men who engage in intense physical activity and do so for a longer period of time. This was a prevalent trend even when the UNC researchers made adjustments for age, and based on those findings alone, it would seem that there is a direct link between exercise and libido – the more you get of the former, the less you’ll have of the latter.
But the New York Times‘ report stressed that the UNC study might have its share of limitations. First off, there was the fact that the researchers only surveyed a small sampling of male subjects. Secondly, there’s also the chance that the men may not have been 100 percent truthful when they answered a questionnaire of such a sensitive nature. As such, their answers might not be representative after all of how exercise affects libido in men, and that doesn’t also consider the fact that the study did not take causality into account, or explain why male sex drive is affected so much by rigorous exercise.
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The New York Times did briefly quote study lead author Anthony Hackney, who offered his own speculative theory as to why grueling exercise and libido drops are related – it may be physical fatigue working in concert with lower testosterone levels observed after a long exercise sessions. He added that despite the new questions raised by his team’s paper, the findings beg an important question doctors should ask couples who want to have a baby.
“Fertility specialists will often ask a woman about whether and how much she exercises. Based on our data, we think they should also be asking the man.”
In the future, Hackney and his colleagues hope to conduct more studies, which may include experiments that offer more a direct look at how exercise and libido, as well as male hormone levels interact with each other. He is also looking forward to determining which of the two has a bigger impact on male sex drive – workout intensity or workout length – and determining the point where exercise begins to have a negative effect on it.
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