Too much exercise can lower sex drive

FITNESS CLINIC

September 08, 1992|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,United Feature Syndicate/Contributing Writer

Stories of the sexual prowess of athletes may or may not b locker-room hype. Yet, in any case, the sexual vigor of athletes is not caused by their training -- because being in great physical shape does not improve one's ability to make love.

Lovemaking doesn't take a lot of energy. In fact, it takes the same amount of energy necessary to walk up two flights of stairs. And if you can do that, you can be a good lover.

We all know that exercise can be good for you, and in most cases, it is. But too much can be bad. It can reduce your sex drive.

Exercising too much can lower the number of your sex hormones, which in turn diminishes your desire to make love. Furthermore, too much exercise can leave you with sore muscles, another reason for avoiding bedtime activities.

Overtraining can affect both men and women. It's easy to tell when a woman's sex hormones are low from too much exercise. She develops irregular menstrual periods or stops having them altogether.

It's not that obvious when a man's hormones are low. When a man exercises too much, his blood levels of testosterone -- the male hormone, which is necessary for potency and sex drive -- drop. So does his sex drive.

If you are a hard-training athlete who notes a reduction in your abilityor desire to make love, check with your doctor. If your hormone levels are low, you may be spending too much time in the gym.

* Q: My running partner takes his pulse while we're working out. Is that really the best way to see how one's doing?

A: No.

First of all, the only pulse rate you need to concern yourself with during exercise is the minimal rate that will make your heart stronger. You don't need to check your maximal pulse rate as long as your heart is healthy. Exercise can't hurt a healthy heart.

Second, to get the most out of exercise, you should work out vigorously enough to increase your heart rate to 60 percent of the fastest your heart can beat and still pump blood through your body.

Most people don't need to take their pulse to know if they're

exercising properly. To make your heart stronger, all you need to do is exercise hard enough to increase your body's need for oxygen. You will know you've reached that level when you begin breathing deeper and faster, raising your shoulders as you inhale more frequently. Hold that pace until you just begin to feel uncomfortable. Now you're exercising at your proper training pace.

Q: I recently read a newspaper story that said chlorinated water causes cancer. What can you tell me about it?

A: The story you read is based on a report published in the American Journal of Public Health that estimates 9 percent of all bladder cancers and 15 percent of all rectal cancers can be attributed to long-term consumption of chlorinated drinking water. But that doesn't mean we should stop adding chlorine to sterilize our water supply. If we didn't sterilize our water, it would contain dangerous bacteria and viruses that could lead to horrible epidemics.

The chlorine itself is harmless, but it can combine with organic compounds from human waste and urine to form halogenated hydrocarbons, which when taken into your body, concentrate in your own feces and urine to cause cancers of the bladder and rectum.

We really don't want to give up chlorinated water because it is arguably the most effective public health measure of the 20th century. However, adding ammonia to the water can help. The chlorine and ammonia combine to form far less toxic molecules. Another less effective method is to use ozone to purify the water.

As for now, the sterilizing properties of chlorine far outweigh the extremely low likelihood of cancer, but local governments should start adding small amounts of ammonia to the chlorinated water. It is already being done in Denver, suburban Philadelphia, parts of Southern California and Fairfax County, Va.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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