Is Exercise Killing Your Sex Drive?

By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) -It seems like we are always telling you to exercise, exercise, and then exercise some more. But is too much of a good thing putting the damper on your sex drive?

It may be, at least according to new research published in the Journal Medicine & Science In Sports And Exercise.

More than 1000 men were surveyed in an attempt to determine the effects of exercise on libido. We know that regular workouts (and a healthy waistline) tend to be more conducive to a healthy sex drive. But it seems that men who really put the pedal to the metal—hours of intense, grueling exercise each week—are more likely to have a flickering flame when it comes to sexual desire.

Now the first thing you might think is that this is simply a survey study, only asking men about their exercise habits and their sex drive. But there is more to it than that.

We do know that women who over-exercise tend to have more problems with female hormones leading to irregular or absent menses, infertility, brittle bones, and several other health problems.

And couples who seek help for infertility are often asked about intense exercise since there seems to be a correlation between low sperm counts and overly intense exercise.

The researchers in this study do believe there may be a link between too much exertion and low testosterone levels. Or, that a person who works out too much may simply be too exhausted to have much interest in sex (which seems like an obvious theory.)

All of which then leads to the question: how much exercise is too much? No good answer here.

One previous study in the journal Physician And Sports Medicine found that in 50-year-old men, moderate to heavy cycling increased sex drive until they hit the four-hour mark total within a one-week timeframe. Then sex drive dropped significantly. So maybe there is some actual number and level of intensity, but that most likely will vary person to person.

In sum, this latest study does not show a direct “too much intense exercise kills sex drive”, however it does suggest that perhaps too much intense exercise may lower testosterone levels or so something similar hormonally in men to make them more likely them to lose desire. The key word: perhaps.

My thinking is this: too many of us do not exercise enough, so suggesting that too much is a problem is risky. (As always, too much of anything is not a good thing.)

And one thing I talk to patients about when they say they have “low libido” is to make sure they are eating well, working out, and have a decent waistline (as well as making sure there is no physical/mental reason for their low libido).

So if you are “low”, maybe drop back a bit in intensity. Or, if you’re too much of a couch potato, a little more might help. In any case, low libido is not necessarily normal, and that’s where your doctor may help.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28195945

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida

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