LADIES, GOOD HEALTH and fitness aren't about just your waistline; they're about what's below your waistline, too.

A thriving intimate relationship with your significant other is vitally important. Better sex in the boudoir is directly connected to women's overall health. (It's the same for men, the subject of last week's column.) Research backs me up on this: Frequent sex in a loving relationship is just plain good for you.

Cardiovascular disease can have an impact on erectile dysfunction in men, and it has an impact on women's sex lives, too.

It's true!

Cardiovascular disease kills more American women - regardless of education, race, or socioeconomic status - than any other cause. That translated to one in three deaths for women in 2009, according to the American Heart Association. (For perspective, one in 30 deaths was from breast cancer, according to the association.)

Hardening of the arteries restricts blood flow to women's pelvic organs. That lack of blood flow may contribute to frigidity (when women have a lack of desire and difficulty enjoying sex).

Now for some good news.

During exercise, your body releases the so-called feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. Guess what? They're released during sex, too. The more you trigger those endorphins, the more sexually aroused you'll likely become, making sex a wonderful workout for your heart.

Yes, ladies, regular sex should be at the top of your menu, along with your group fitness classes and green, leafy salads. Sex and heart health go together like a hand in glove; if you're in good cardiovascular shape, you're more likely to have better and more frequent sex.

There are other benefits, too. Sex lowers blood pressure, and the female orgasm releases the hormone oxytocin, which also lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. When it comes to good health, exercise and sex trump red wine and chocolate.

6 sexercise tips

Here's how to get your groove back and keep on groovin', ladies:

1. Take care of your ticker. Protecting ourselves against cardiovascular diseases should be priority No. 1. Most days of the week, make exercise a priority, too. Mix it up with walking, running, biking, stair climbing, group fitness, dancing, weight training, and yoga. Better overall fitness and cardiovascular health will improve your endurance and make for more sizzling sex.

2. Maintain flexibility. Women's flexibility is particularly important for better sex. I suggest traditional yoga postures like cat/cow, downward-facing dog, and wide-angle seated-forward bend. These will not only enhance your flexibility but also give you more satisfaction between the sheets.

3. Do your Kegels. You'll be rewarded with better sex and stronger orgasms. The other cool thing is that this pelvic-floor exercise can be done anywhere - at your desk, in the car, while grocery shopping. Anywhere.

Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder. When these muscles weaken, everything starts sagging. The result can be urinary leakage problems and diminished sexual performance.

The easiest way to locate your pelvic floor muscles is to stop the flow while urinating. The muscles you engage to do that are the pelvic floor muscles. Now that you know where they are, make it a habit to contract and release them about 25 times, three times a day (except when urinating). Some experts even recommend working your way up to 100 repetitions three times a day.

4. Stay hydrated. You should already be drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water daily. If you're not, would the promise of a better sex life motivate you to drink up? Water helps all functions in your body run smoothly, and that includes vaginal lubrication.

5. Eat the right fats. Avocados are rich in folic acid, vitamin B6, and potassium. Ancient Aztecs believed eating them increased sexual desire; they also thought the fruit looked like testicles. So what's not to love about avocados?

6. Pump up your libido. Other foods celebrated for their aphrodisiac properties (which may be a myth, but they're also packed with good nutrition - and that's sexy) include asparagus, almonds, figs, and, lest we forget, chocolate.

Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Her column appears on the first and third Wednesdays monthly.