An Australian study that examines links between lifestyle and reproductive health in males over 40 years, reveals exercise is not only beneficial for the heart, but sexual health as well.

Other studies have revealed links between erectile dysfunction and depression but this study reveals links with other male reproductive health disorders.

There is a significant link between lack of physical activity and erectile dysfunction and a perception of a lack of testosterone, the study discovered.

It also associates diabetes and cardiovascular disease with erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure is significantly associated with lower urinary tract symptoms and perceived symptoms of androgen deficiency.

All male sex hormones are known as androgen and testosterone is the predominant one.

Professor Rob McLachlan, of the Monash Institute of Medical Research and director of Andrology Australia, who co-authored the study, says the study brings to light the reproductive concerns of men which are related to other health issues.

Erectile dysfunction is a canary in the coal mine for other diseases that may not be apparent, said Prof McLachlan.

Doctors are advised to discuss reproductive health with men suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, suggests the study.

It also reemphasizes the importance of men maintaining fitness and staying fit into old age, says Prof McLachlan.

The research was based on the analysis of 2003 Men in Australia telephone survey, which involved nearly 6,000 men over 40 years of age.

Though there were limitations to the study because it was based on self-reported data, Prof McLachlan stressed on the importance of following healthy heart guidelines of a half-hour vigorous exercise daily.

One of the shocking links discovered from the study was the association between being very underweight and erectile dysfunction.

Prof McLachlan advised younger males to realize today's 30 year-old overweight, diabetic and sedentary (man) in 10 years will be 40.

If you start your middle age in less than ideal circumstances it gets no easier.