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Sexercise: Do I have everyone’s attention now?

Exercise gives you energy and boosts your self-esteem, and both enhance your ability to have satisfying sex. And that’s not all. Start training now and I’ll throw in some additional research about increased sexual function.

Did you know that by age 50, one-third of American men experience some kind of impotence? Oh yes. It’s called erectile dysfunction, and so many men are troubled by it, there’s been an explosive increase in the demand for Viagra and similar drugs.

The trouble is as the blood flow to the penis increases, so does the risk of unpleasant side effects. Enter exercise.

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, men who did vigorous exercise - equal to running three hours a week or playing singles tennis five hours a week - were almost a third less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. More modest exercise - 200 calories a day or the equivalent of a brisk, two-mile walk - has also been shown to lower the likelihood of impotence.

Next time you’re hard up for a reason to exercise, think vitality, not Viagra. Coming soon: reason No. 48.

Dear Marilynn: I used to love running, but I got bored with it a few years ago and started doing other things, like tennis, golf and swimming. Now I miss it. My other sports involve court time or tee time or a pool, and running is just so darn easy.

How can I get back into it and not be bored?

  • J.H.

A: Does it have to be all or nothing? One way to beat back boredom in any sport is to cross-train, a fancy way of saying you include several sports in your workout mix. Swim one day, run the next, then some tennis. That would be ideal.

That said, when you do get back to running, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can pick up where you left off several years ago. Start slowly and build gradually.

If you were running 10-minute miles back then, be content to start out at a 13- to 15-minute mile pace. Listen to your body, and you’ll know when it’s time to push harder.

But don’t overdo it. That’s another common mistake and often leads to injuries. In the beginning, limit your workouts to 30 minutes per session, not counting your warm-up and your cool-down. Set goals that make sense to you.

When you can comfortably run three miles in 30 minutes, add another 15 to 30 minutes to your workout time. Or pick up the pace. Use interval training - short sprints - and uphill routes to vary your workout and improve performance.

Keeping track of your workouts in a running journal will help you stay focused and involved. So might joining a running club. No one feels bored when they are having fun. That’s your challenge.

Run with friends. Or music. Or a dog. And don’t confuse boredom with calm. Strive to stride in a way that frees your mind from the chatter of everyday hubba-hubba. From that place of quiet and calm, great pleasure can come.

Do you want tighter, stronger, more delicious abs? Of course you do. Here’s a new, weightier version of the classic crunch designed to add a little extra challenge. You’ll need a light dumbbell.

Begin on your back, legs up, knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Balance the dumbbell on your ankles, legs together. Cradle your neck in your hands, elbows out to your sides, engage your abs, and slowly lift your shoulders off the floor.

You’ll feel the crunch in your upper and lower stomach muscles. Breathe and enjoy. Slowly release and repeat. The more you extend your legs with the dumbbell, the more challenge is involved.

If it hurts your lower back, don’t do it.

As the seasons change, so can we. What old habit will you allow to fall away? Give up sugary colas? Stop skipping breakfast? Make one small step toward a healthier lifestyle this autumn. Start today.

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.