Fit for Love

“I am writing on my husbands behalf sort of! ;-) We have settled back at home after his rehab as a tetraplegic and we are still young and hoping to get our sex life going again after a long stay in hospital and rehab. Because he does not have the same ability to move around the “job” has suddenly become mine and this not easy!! I get tired quickly and it has become hard work. Please help!!

Your “problem” is quite common in couples where one party becomes spinal cord injured and mobility is affected. I imagine that your husband used to take the leading role physically before his injury and now the roles have changed?

Having and maintaining a healthy active sex life requires a certain level of dexterity, agility and physical fitness from both parties. Sex can be physically tiring, just like any other physical activity, particularly if it is sustained for a long duration or frequency.

Physical fitness, health and a body-mass proportionate to body-length are key to a fulfilling sex life. There are fitness gyms placed conveniently in all the major centers in our country and membership does not cost the earth, in fact some medical aid schemes reward or pay for gym membership. However when one checks the attendance register of the gyms it is astounding how many signed up members there are against the handful that actually attend gym sessions!!

For women, research has found a link between exercise and sex. It appears that vigorous exercise primes women’s bodies for sexual activity. Frequent exercise increases women’s genital blood-flow making their bodies respond faster, and more intensely, to sexual contact and content.

Exercise has many other benefits as well that impact directly and indirectly on sex. Cardiovascular exercise is the most natural way for the human body to utilise the excess adrenalin and norepinephrine hormones secreted by the adrenal glands in a fight or flight response to daily stressors. Burning these hormones by physical exercise also helps one to sleep more peacefully and easily, as a side effect of adrenalin is to keep you vigilant and awake.

A satisfying sex life also involves self-image. People who exercise regularly, and can therefore have satisfying sex lives, will develop a positive self body image that makes them enjoy their bodies more too.

As far as you having to assume the dominant role in your sexual activity there is a popular misconception that the female on top position has to see her move up and down during intercourse. This is not true. The female can sit on top of her man and, instead of moving up and down using leg and arm muscles, merely do forward and back pelvic tilts. This is a small and far less exhausting movement that allows more than adequate stimulation.

Your male partner can also benefit from physical exercise despite his mobility impairment. People with limited mobility need to exercise for all the same reasons of improving fitness, losing weight and strengthening muscles. While spinal cord injury makes achieving fitness a challenge, with a few precautions and modifications, the person with spinal cord injury can achieve a high level of fitness and avoid the health risks related to lack of mobility. People with disability are at increased risk of becoming overweight, partly due to changes in metabolism, lost muscle mass and decreased physical activity. Fitness and exercise can reduce pain in shoulders, joint deterioration and damage to rotator cuffs experienced by people in wheelchairs.

Remember too that sex itself is a physical activity and burns calories and increases fitness. Sex therefore can increase self-esteem, cardio vascular health, emotional intimacy, improve sleep and increase immunity.