Six lifestyle changes a man can make to improve sexual function
Many men believe that a decline in sexual function is just a natural part of aging. But if you notice discouraging changes in your sexual function, you shouldn’t assume they’re inevitable or permanent.
Your sexual function depends on your overall health and the lifestyle choices you make that affect your health. At every age, those lifestyle choices play a crucial role in your ability to get and maintain an erection and to enjoy physical intimacy.
Body awareness and better health
For optimal sexual function, you need to stay aware of how your body works and how it’s responding to the way you live—what you eat, how often you’re active, how you manage stress, and more.
The unfortunate truth about body awareness is that many of us don’t pay much attention until something goes wrong—like a heart attack or a pulled hamstring. For some men, body awareness doesn’t begin until after they notice signs of erectile dysfunction.
Men receive very little education about how their sexual function will change over time. Those changes can seem mysterious, embarrassing, and even a little frightening to someone who isn’t prepared for them.
With increased awareness of how your body works, you can make adjustments in your lifestyle that result in real, noticeable improvements in your sexual function.
A secret to success: nitric oxide
A healthy erection requires healthy blood flow. During an erection, blood flows into the tissue inside the penis, making the penis rigid.
Your body produces a molecule called nitric oxide that plays an important role in keeping your blood vessels wide and relaxed so that blood flows as efficiently as possible. That includes making it possible for the penis to receive increased blood flow during an erection.
You may not know anything about nitric oxide, but you’ve probably heard of medications for erectile dysfunction such as Cialis and Levitra. Those medications work by giving a boost to the nitric oxide already in your body. They make blood flow more freely to the penis during an erection by making your nitric oxide work for longer periods of time.
Use nitric oxide to motivate yourself to get healthier
Making healthy choices in your life is not always easy. We all need extra motivation from time to time.
All of the lifestyle changes below will help you make your body healthier overall, and that can be a good motivator all by itself.
But now that you know more about how your body works and how it uses nitric oxide, you’ll probably also notice that most of the lifestyle changes below can have a direct impact on your nitric oxide.
Use that new body awareness to your advantage. When you find yourself falling back into unhealthy habits, remember how important nitric oxide is in improving your sexual function—and that you have the power to help make it happen.
Try these lifestyle changes for better sexual function
Manage your weight
People who are overweight have more inflammation throughout their bodies. Inflammation increases substances called reactive oxygen species, or ROS. All you need to know about ROS is this: It fights against your nitric oxide and makes it less effective.
Losing weight decreases inflammation, and that decreases the ROS in your body. When you do that, your nitric oxide wins.
And here’s some extra motivation: When you lose weight, you look better naked. That’s not vain. That’s a real psychological boost you get when you succeed in managing your weight to improve your sexual function. Embrace it.
Good nutrition helps your health in so many ways, including helping you manage your weight.
For people who have diabetes, even temporary increases in blood sugar leads to higher levels of ROS, which you now know is a threat to your nitric oxide. Eating the right foods helps you avoid those blood sugar spikes.
Even if you don’t have diabetes, making healthier choices when you eat should be part of your plan to improve your sexual function. If you need help identifying better ways of eating, ask a registered dietitian for ideas.
Regular exercise can boost your heart’s ability to circulate blood, and better circulation helps blood flow throughout the body, including during erections.
Aim for a combination of cardio exercise (for example, walking, running, swimming) and strength training (for example, weights, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises).
You also have a couple of great options for exercises that target erectile function:
Improve blood flow to your penis by using a vacuum pump specifically designed for that purpose. You can purchase one online or at a pharmacy.
Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by doing Kegel exercises. Pelvic floor muscles do the work of closing off the veins that drain blood from your penis during an erection. When those muscles are weak, your erections aren’t as rigid and won’t last as long.
Reduce your stress
One of the ways your body responds to stress is by constricting blood vessels. That means your blood flow, including blood flow to erections, is reduced when you’re stressed. Even erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra and Cialis can be canceled out by stress.
Stress management is a highly personal choice that can include exercise, meditation, hobbies, or even just talking it out with a friend or a therapist. Investigate options that you think would work best for you.
Alcohol in moderation can be helpful with relaxation and for getting into the mood for intimacy. But excess alcohol consumption will worsen erectile function, in the short-term and the long-term.
When you stop smoking, you’re doing your body a favor in so many ways, but when it comes to your sexual health, smoking cessation decreases the impact that ROS has on your body’s production of nitric oxide.
When you stop smoking, your nitric oxide wins again.