IU Health & Wellness
Research and insights from Indiana University
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 8, 2008
Contraceptive methods shape women's sexual pleasure and satisfaction. New data from The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University demonstrate that many women think condoms undermine sexual pleasure, but those who use both hormonal contraception and condoms report higher overall sexual satisfaction. The study authors suggest that this inconsistency reflects how women think about their contraceptive method when asked questions about two different aspects of sexuality -- sexual enjoyment and overall sexual satisfaction. When considering overall sexual satisfaction, which goes beyond the immediate sexual moment and includes factors such as sexual self-esteem and relationship satisfaction, women who used both condoms and hormonal methods reported the highest levels of sexual satisfaction. On the other hand, when asked directly about the effect of contraceptive methods on sexual enjoyment, women who used condoms, either alone or with hormonal methods, were far more likely to report decreased pleasure, suggesting women feel condoms make sex less pleasurable. Those who used only hormonal methods, such as the birth control pill, were unlikely to associate their method with decreased sexual pleasure. The study, published in November's issue of Sexual Health, begins to answer questions about contraceptive methods and women's sexuality -- an area largely ignored by researchers. "The public health community has paid little attention to women's sexual experiences with contraceptive methods, especially condoms," said Stephanie Sanders, associate director of The Kinsey Institute and a co-author of the study. "If women think condoms detract from sexual pleasure, they may be less inclined to use them consistently."
- Only 4 percent of women who relied on hormonal methods of contraception reported decreased pleasure, but hormonal users reported the lowest overall sexual satisfaction scores.
- While 23 percent of women who used both condoms and hormonal methods reported decreased pleasure, they had the highest sexual satisfaction scores.
- Women who used condoms alone or along with a hormonal method were six to seven times more likely to report decreased sexual enjoyment compared to those who used hormonal methods only.
- Women with no history of a sexually transmitted infection were more than twice as likely to report that their method decreased sexual pleasure.
Authors of the study include lead author Jenny Higgins, Princeton University; Susie Hoffman, Columbia University; and Cynthia Graham, University of Oxford.
Fitness multi-tasking. With the holidays coming up, it can be difficult to fit both strength and cardiovascular exercise into your workout regimen. Andy Fry, a fitness expert in Indiana University Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, has a suggestion: Try circuit training. Circuit training is a type of interval workout that combines endurance and aerobic exercises to create a full-body workout that usually lasts 30 minutes. "Circuit training usually consists of eight to 10 exercises, with minimal rest in-between," said Fry. "The idea is to keep your heart-rate elevated the entire time, fatiguing one muscle before moving on to the next." A circuit training session could consist of short intervals on a stationary bike or treadmill with strength exercises such as lunges or bicep curls in-between. One could also create eight to 10 different "stations" with exercises such as pushups, jumping jacks or free weights. Spend one to two minutes at each station, with minimal breaks in-between. Complete the circuit two or three times.
Fry discusses the perks of circuit training:
- It's a time saver. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week and eight to 10 strength-training exercises twice a week. "When you combine strength and cardio into one circuit training workout, you get two workouts for the price of one," said Fry.
- Anyone can circuit train. "The great thing about circuit training is that anyone can do it," said Fry. "Circuit training is easy to modify, so it's good for everyone, even an elite athlete." Fry suggests varying weight and intensity so that you stay challenged.
- Your body (and mind) is constantly being challenged. Since circuit training involves a variety of exercises, all working different muscle groups, the body is less inclined to adapt -- making workouts more effective. It also keeps workouts exciting. "Since you are always moving to the next exercise, you are less likely to get bored," said Fry. "It's often difficult for someone to continue the same activity for 30-40 minutes."
- You don't need a gym. If you can't make it to the gym, Fry suggests using household items to do circuit training at home. "You could use milk jugs as weights," said Fry. "Each jug, filled with water, weighs eight pounds."
Power gifts. Thinking about buying some serious exercise equipment as a gift for (yourself) a lucky loved one? Indiana University fitness consultant Antonio Williams offers some insights to help make sure the money is well spent.
- Boflex SelectTech Dumbbells. $149-$699, depending on weight amounts. The sleek design is easy to use, saves space in a home gym and provides convenience by allowing people to change weight amounts without having to grab for other dumbbells. Williams suggests the system is too advanced for beginners but suitable for more advanced weight lifters who are invested in their fitness.
- Nintendo Wii Fit. $179.99 or less, depending on the gear and activities included, Wii console sold separately. Williams said he and his students in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation chose Wii Fit as the top gift idea. The gift, which targets the video game culture, is suitable for all ages and has a "good fun factor," Williams said, making it a nice add-on for people who already have Wii systems. Wii Fit is "almost like having a virtual personal trainer," Williams said, because of the extensive features that let users monitor their progress, calculate BMI, examine balance levels and enjoy workouts that can include yoga, Pilates, boxing and other activities.
- Total Gym. As much as $1,448 depending on the model. Williams said this oldie but goody is more suitable for dancers, martial artists and intermediate to advanced body builders because of the skill needed for a good workout. The Total Gym relies on users' own body weight and can provide a wide, free range of motion during workouts. He said it is somewhat clanky, however, and motions might not feel as fluid as desired.
- The Perfect Pushup. $29.95-$39.99. Anyone can do a pushup without equipment, Williams said, but the rotating design of the Perfect Pushup handles makes the exercise more interesting. The item's design reduces stress on wrists. Because the bars are off the floor, the equipment helps users maximize the contraction and extension of chest muscles through an increased range of motion. Williams said the item is well made, making it more enjoyable to use than knockoff brands.
- Garmin GPS watches. $120 to more than $300, depending on the model. Williams said these watches are for hardcore runners but also can be used by cyclists. The watches let runners track their distance, pace, heart rate, elevation and other factors and offer training features such as interval timers and pace alerts. The watches interface with computers to store and analyze data.
- Nike Plus iPod Sports Kit. $29, iPod Nano and Nike Plus-ready shoes sold separately. Williams said this item is for young consumers and people who do not like the gym or treadmill. The sensor, which is worn in a shoe, and iPod combo let people synch their music to their workout. The sensor tracks distance, time, pace and calories burned, providing feedback through headphones and a display on the iPod. It can provide motivational coaches and offers a Web site to help users keep track of their workouts.