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Friday 15 July 2011

10 Exercise Tips for a Better Sex Life

We all know that regular exercise has myriad health benefits. It can help you drop pounds or just keep your weight in a healthy range. Exercise can combat conditions like high blood pressure and reduce your risk of maladies such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. You'll have more energy and sleep better. It improves your mental health, too -- increasing your self-esteem, mood and combating depression.

But if none of those things are enough to move you off the couch, consider this: Regular exercise can also improve things in the bedroom. Obviously being fitter and healthier overall will go a long way, but specific types of exercises can also improve your strength, flexibility and stamina in bed. What more motivation do you need? So if you'd like to impress your partner the next time you're intimate, read on for 10 exercise tips for a better sex life. We'll even throw in a few basic steps to get you started.

10: Do Those Kegels
If you're a woman, you may already be familiar with Kegels -- but they're not just for women. Named for a gynecologist, these exercises are used to strengthen the pubococcygeus (or "PC") muscle. The PC muscle functions as a sort of hammock, supporting the pelvic organs including the bladder, reproductive organs and rectum. Often Kegels are prescribed to treat conditions such as incontinence or prostate pain. They can also make vaginal childbirth easier.

Since the PC is also the muscle that contracts during orgasm, Kegels can improve sexual function in both women and men. Women who strengthen the PC muscle with Kegels report more consistent and better orgasms. In men, Kegels can lead to stronger, longer-lasting erections and have helped treat erectile dysfunction.

One of the best things about Kegels is that they're simple and you can do them anywhere. Finding the right muscle can be tricky, though -- you need to focus just on the PC muscle and not any others around it. Women can insert a finger into the vagina and try to contract and release the muscles around it; you should be able to feel your pelvic floor lift and lower. You can also try stopping and starting your urine flow. Once you've identified the muscle, though, don't perform Kegels when urinating because you can actually weaken it. Start with tightening, holding for five seconds and then releasing. Work up to holding the contraction for longer and doing three sets of at least 10 repetitions a day. Many people get results within just a few months.

9: Strengthen Your Core
There's a lot of talk in the fitness world about strengthening your core. This group of muscles consists of the center, or core, of your body -- the muscles in your middle and lower back, abdomen and pelvis. These muscles are important in just about any movement and, when it comes to sexual positions, they contribute to the thrust, so to speak.

There are lots of different exercises that you can do to strengthen your core. Crunches are a classic core exercise with which you're probably already familiar, but another great maneuver you may not have performed is known as the quadruped. Start out on your hands and knees, with your hands aligned under your shoulders and your knees aligned with your hips. It's important to tighten your abdomen and remember to breathe. Then, lift and straighten your left arm and right leg so that they are level with your spine. You'll really work your abs and trunk muscles while trying to maintain balance. Hold for a few seconds, release, and then alternate using your right arm and left leg. If this is too difficult, try just lifting an arm, then a leg, then an arm, then a leg. Slowly work up to holding this exercise longer and doing more repetitions.

8: Build Upper-body Strength
Any sexual position that requires you to support your weight using your arms, such as missionary, could be held longer if you have toned, strong arms and a strong chest. Upper-body strength is also required for standing positions in which the man supports the woman's entire body weight.

Start out with push-ups, another classic with endless variations. A modified version, good for beginners, involves keeping your knees down and lowering your chest to the ground by bending your arms, with your hands spread about shoulder-width apart. You can also cross your ankles or turn your hands in. Regular push-ups require you to straighten your body so that your feet are together and toes are resting on the ground. This is also known as the plank position. Lower and lift your body using your arms in a slow, steady motion. To make this exercise more difficult, try to perform it even slower, or hover just above the ground when you come down. Continue adding repetitions.

There are several gym machines designed to build upper-body strength, such as the rowing machine. You can also use dumbbells or other free weights. Ask a trainer at the gym for suggestions or search for more upper-body exercises online.

7: Cardiovascular Exercise
Any exercise routine should include some form of cardiovascular or aerobic activity performed at a continuous, moderate pace for at least 20 minutes at a time. This type of exercise raises your heart rate for an extended period and has the benefit of strengthening all of your body, including your heart and lungs. The more conditioned these organs are, the more efficient they will be. You'll have more endurance and be able to perform that other form of exercise -- sex -- for longer.

Many different kinds of exercise qualify as cardio. If you enjoy the great outdoors, consider speed-walking, running, bicycling or cross-country skiing. Gym machines like a treadmill or stationary bike can give you a cardio workout indoors. If you are concerned about the impact of exercises like running on your joints, you can try swimming or use an elliptical machine. Also, check out target heart-rate calculators online or ask a personal trainer for guidance. Knowing the proper heart rate to maintain while exercising -- which varies depending on your age, fitness level and current health -- will help you stay safe while achieving the maximum benefit.

6: Try Yoga
At first glance, there may not seem to be much of a connection between yoga and sex (unless we're talking about the tantric yoga that became associated with musician Sting). After all, yoga is about being calm and meditating, right? That's one aspect of it, but there are many different benefits to practicing yoga. It can also increase your flexibility -- just imagine how that can improve your sex life -- as well as give you more strength, energy and a better sense of balance. Take at least a few introductory classes to be sure that you have good form before practicing on your own.

Here's a basic yoga position that can better your sex life by stretching your hip and groin muscles: cobbler's pose, also known as the bound angle or baddha konasana. If your hips are especially tight, sit on the edge of a rolled-up blanket prior to trying this pose. Sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Take a deep breath, then with an exhale, bend your knees, drop them out to your sides and pull your ankles in toward your pelvis in a comfortable position. Press the outsides of your feet against the floor and hold each foot in its same-side hand. Sit up tall, imagining a straight line running from the top of your head down your spine to the floor. Try to press your thighs against the floor (don't force your knees down or you may hurt yourself). Hold cobbler's pose for a few minutes before taking another deep breath, then exhale as you straighten your legs.

5: Maximize Your Gluteus
OK, you don't necessarily want to make your gluteal muscles (the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus) bigger. But making them stronger and better toned can only be a good thing. Not only can you improve the appearance of your backside, you can also improve your sex life. Those muscles help support, rotate and extend your trunk and hips. This means that during intercourse, they contribute to thrusting action.

Because we sit on our buttocks, the gluteal muscles aren't usually as toned as they could be. Luckily there are lots of exercises that target the area. One popular exercise for the butt is the squat, which will also strengthen your legs. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and squat down as if you're about to sit in an imaginary chair. Make sure you keep your knees over your toes. When you come back up, squeeze your butt. Try to build up to 20 repetitions. You can also increase the intensity by holding a dumbbell in each hand (start with 3- to 5-pound weights if you're not used to them) or by jumping up and landing in a squat.

4: Build Leg Strength
Strong, powerful legs form the foundation of your body, but they do so much more than just support it and propel you around. All kinds of sexual positions can benefit from working on your leg strength -- not just ones that require you to stand. Of course the body isn't an island, and most types of exercise that you do will also benefit your legs. However, there are plenty of exercises meant to specifically target them. Leg exercises target three different groups of muscles: the quadriceps (front of the legs), the hamstrings (back of the legs) and the calves (lower legs).

Lunges target all three of the leg muscle groups, as well as the gluteal muscles. From a standing position, put one foot forward and lower your body until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle and your back knee is parallel to the floor. Make sure that you keep your back straight and don't allow your front knee to come over your toes or rotate inward or outward. When you rise up, you'll definitely feel it in your legs. Initially you probably won't be able to get that low to the ground or do that many repetitions, but stick with it. Switch when one side gets tired. If you find yourself getting off balance, hold onto a chair or the wall.

3: Flex Your Hips
Although our hips include several different muscles, the hip flexors are the ones that can tighten and cause us pain. The iliacus runs from the femur (upper leg bone) to the hip, while the psoas runs from the femur to the lower back. Like the gluteal muscles, the hip flexors are negatively affected by the sitting that many of us do for eight (or more) hours a day as part of our jobs. This keeps the muscles in a shortened position. But the hip flexors help us bend at the waist and lift our knees -- movements you'll probably find yourself doing at some point in the bedroom. If your hip flexors are tight, you could actually strain them.

Luckily you can loosen your hip flexors through dynamic stretching. These types of exercises move muscles through their range of motion. One such exercise is a simple forward stretch. Kneel on the floor, then place one leg in front with your foot flat on the floor. Lean forward and try to lower your pelvis. You should feel this stretch at the front of your hip. Hold it for 20 to 30 seconds before releasing and going to the other side. Try to do this stretch three to four times in a row, making it part of an overall stretching routine prior to exercise.

2: Lift Weights
Some people -- many of whom otherwise incorporate a wide range of exercises into their daily lives -- will avoid weight lifting. That might be because an image of bulging biceps on muscle-bound weight lifters comes to mind. However, both men and women can greatly benefit from taking up weight lifting. It strengthens your bones and can exercise every major muscle group in the body. Some studies have also shown that lifting weights causes an increase in testosterone, which can translate to an increase in your sex drive. You won't build crazy-huge muscles unless you're specifically trying to do so.

Most of the exercises we've suggested so far require no equipment whatsoever, but adding weight lifting to your repertoire will mean visiting a gym or making some purchases. You can use weight machines, but a lot of people prefer to use free weights such as dumbbells. Some use household items like bottles of water or cans of food when they're just starting out. If you choose to lift weights at home, it's important to make sure that you're using the proper form to avoid hurting yourself and to make sure that you target the right muscles. Start with lighter weights and work your way up to heavier ones over time.

1: Exercise Together
OK, unlike all of our other tips, this one isn't about working a specific muscle group or taking up one particular type of exercise. However, it's no less important than the rest. If you see your exercise routine as pure drudgery, you're less likely to stick with it. One way to make it fun is to exercise with your significant other. If you're enjoying yourself as you get fit, then you'll be able to better use your newfound energy, stamina, flexibility and strength in the bedroom.

Accountability is an important factor here. If someone else is counting on you to get up for a jog at 5:30 a.m., you're more likely to do it instead of hitting snooze. You could also consider creating a little healthy competition. Make gym dates or plan outdoor adventures that incorporate exercise, like rock-climbing, hiking or biking. Consider playing a sport together like tennis or join a softball team. Working up a sweat with your partner (in a different way) could end up being very sexy indeed.

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Isaacs, Nora. "Yoga Positions for Better Sex." Prevention Magazine. March 2006. (Oct. 13, 2010)
Mayo Clinic Staff. "Core Exercises." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Aug. 22, 2009. (Oct. 13, 2010)
Mayo Clinic Staff. "Kegel Exercises." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. July 10, 2010 (Oct. 12, 2010)
Murphy, Myatt. "Exercises For Better Sex." That's Fit - AOL Health. Dec. 1, 2009 (Oct. 12, 2010)
Murphy, Myatt. "The Better-Sex Workout." Men's Health. 2010. (Oct. 13, 2010)
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