A new study finds that exercise for better mental health doesn’t have to involve tough training regimes and iron willpower: it can involve simpler and gentler activities such as gardening, golf, or going for a walk. This can be a relief for those of us who have not made a habit of exercising, and feel secretly daunted about the whole prospect of getting started.

We all know the benefits of exercise for both our mental and physical health, from improved balance, strength and stamina to a more positive mood and better self-esteem. There is also overwhelming evidence that it can help to reduce the risk of developing serious diseases such as diabetes, certain types of cancer, and heart disease. 

For men, taking regular exercise can have another important benefit: an improved performance in the bedroom. This is because good physical and mental health make it easier for the brain and body to communicate, and this reduces the chances of erectile dysfunction (ED), particularly after the age of 40.

Exercise improves blood circulation and strengthens the heart, which is especially beneficial to allow blood to reach the narrow vessels that supply the penis. It also reduces the risk of developing other health problems that are strongly linked to the causes of ED, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions. 

Mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem are also known risk factors for ED, because they make it more difficult for the brain and body to become sexually aroused or to stay aroused long enough for a satisfactory sexual experience. 

There are fortunately several safe and effective treatments for ED, including oral medication and external treatments. One of the most recent products that is available to buy without a prescription is Eroxon Stimgel, a topical gel that can be applied directly to the penis and takes effect within 10 minutes. This allows lovemaking to be more spontaneous.

However, these treatments can’t rescue a flatlining sex drive; they require the ability to become sexually aroused in order to work. They can be a useful tool to aid the mechanics of the sexual act, but they certainly won’t solve the underlying causes of ED. In fact, it’s not a good idea to simply treat ED symptoms without investigating the causes first.

This is because, as previously mentioned, a ready supply of blood to the penis is a sign of good mental and physical health, so if all’s not working as it should, it could be a red flag. In many cases, a few simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference to both the body and the mind.

This is where the importance of exercise comes in. The good news is that the most recent research shows that this doesn’t have to involve a daunting regime of 6am gym sessions and 10K runs.  

New research by a team at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has shown that even moderate exercise can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety by up to 26 per cent. The researchers carried out an umbrella review of global research into the relationship between physical activity and good mental health. 

The team found a link between low and moderate risk activities such as gardening, walking, and golf, and improved mental health outcomes. However, there was no strong correlation between high-intensity exercise and better mental health. This is encouraging for people who may be intimidated by the thought of hitting the gym or riding a bike. 

Lead author Lee Smith, Professor of Public Health at ARU, said:

“Preventing mental health complications effectively has emerged as a major challenge, and an area of paramount importance in the realm of public health. These conditions can be complex and necessitate a multi-pronged approach to treatment, which may encompass pharmacological interventions, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.

“These effects of physical activity intensity on depression highlight the need for precise exercise guidelines. Moderate exercise can improve mental health through biochemical reactions, whereas high-intensity exercise may worsen stress-related responses in some individuals.”

He added: “The fact that even low to moderate levels of physical activity can be beneficial for mental health is particularly important, given that these levels of activity may be more achievable for people who can make smaller lifestyle changes without feeling they need to commit to a high-intensity exercise programme.”

Anyone experiencing ED may find that stepping up their level of physical activity can soon make a difference to both their sexual confidence and overall state of health.