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Fitness Vacations, With a Twist

From cruises that emphasize exercise over eating to resorts with complete medical evaluations, more Americans are using their vacations to get healthy.

A Sexual Health Approach

Laura Berman, PhD, can relate. A sex expert and director of the Berman Center in Chicago, this month opened her own spa-like facility to give women with sexual problems a vacation -- in more ways than one.

"Even more so than with men, sexuality in women is multifaceted, and when a woman has a problem with her sex life, it's not a matter of just giving her a medication to cure it," she tells WebMD. "For women, emotional and medical factors are happening simultaneously and interacting with one another. Even if the primary cause is medical, she has emotional issues that can't be ignored. Unlike men, medical intervention alone rarely works for women."

But a multi-pronged approach does.

At The Berman Center couples and individual women are treated for five days with a combination of intense medical evaluation and pampered TLC, with hopes of curing low desire, inability to orgasm, or other sexual problems.

"The very first thing they do is meet with a sex therapist," says Berman, clinical assistant professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at nearby Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University. "Then they see a physician who does lab work and looks at their hormone levels." The evaluation also includes a look at muscle strength in the pelvic region, blood flow, and sensitivity of the sex organs.

"They see a physical therapist and get a fitness assessment, all while wearing plush terry cloth robes -- not paper gowns -- and being served juices and teas and snacks. And then, we tailor-make a specific plan for them to follow for the rest of the week."

There's Pilates, yoga, and other physical therapy, and not only to strengthen the muscles around the pelvis that control the ability to enjoy sex and achieve orgasm. These programs, along with plenty of classes, lectures, and talk therapy, are also aimed to deal with the stress that can contribute to -- and usually results from -- having sexual problems.

"It's not easy to get into the depths of a woman's or couple's sex life, so we want to make it as peaceful, soothing and calming as possible," Berman says. "That's why they can bring their kids and we babysit them. There's beautiful, nearby shopping and plenty to do. It's a complete vacation that is doing something for their sexual health -- and themselves."

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Reviewed on March 12, 2009

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