An Italian scientist says her studies demonstrate that the high life starts with high heels. In other words, stilettos improve a woman's sex life.

Maria Cerruto, a urologist at the University of Verona, says tests she has conducted have found that wearing a pair of moderately high heels could tone the body, condition muscles, and even improve a woman's sex life without the need for onerous exercise sessions

Ironically, sex was far from her mind when Cerruto began the study. Her original mission was to tackle "bizarre" non-scientific theories blaming high heels for a range of ills, including schizophrenia. But instead she stumbled onto sex.

"As a woman who loves heeled shoes, I tried to find something healthy in them. In the end I achieved my goal. Heels affect pelvic floor activity, reducing pain and improving your health. We now hope to prove that wearing heels during daily activity may reduce the need for pelvic exercises," a Britsih newspaper quoted Cerruto as saying.

Cerruto studied 66 female volunteers aged under 50 and measured the electrical activity in the pelvic muscles of the women.

She says she discovered that women who held their feet at a 15-degree angle to the ground, the equivalent of a 7cm heel, showed up to 15 per cent less electrical activity in their pelvic muscles.

The results, Cerutto said, suggest the muscles are more relaxed when women wear higher heels, increasing their strength and ability to contract.

"Women often find it difficult to complete their exercises. This may prove a solution,"Cerruto said.

Fashion icon

High heels have been a fashion icon since the 17th Century, but over the past half-century they have been blamed for a variety of health problems ranging from bunions, stress fractures and knee pain to an increased risk of arthritis.

A blogger who contacted Manolo Blahnik, whose high-heeled shoes were fetishised by Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the American television series Sex and the City, seemed to welcome the news.

"When you put on a high heel it makes life more exciting. In the 1980s it was all about power, but today it's shifted; it's about elegance. If you're a woman, it's a way to appeal to the male species, it's a way to attract. And it works. I have men who tell me that heels have saved their marriage.

"I think there's a limit, though. Anything over four inches is just too much. You can't walk properly; it's no longer elegant," said Blahnik.

But a celebrity trainer, Matt Roberts, in media interviews, toed a different line.

"A woman wearing high heels will hold the muscles tight to compensate," Roberts said. "When you are standing on tiptoes you have to clench the buttocks, the inner thighs and the pelvic floor muscles.

"It would potentially give them a short-term tension and toning. But the negative effects can outweigh the positive. The knees are put under strain, the hips are out of position. It can lead to long-term health risks," he said.

The complete study is expected to be reported in the journal European Urology.

The complete study is at