Improve Your Sex Life With Exercise
Admittedly, most people get more excited about working up a sweat between the sheets than on the treadmill. But if you’re someone who struggles to find the motivation to fit in your weekly workouts, you might be interested to know there is a direct correlation between physical exercise and sexual activity.
A 2019 study found that adults who participated in regular physical activity also self-reported higher levels of sexual activity, and the connection doesn’t stop there. Further research shows that greater levels of physical fitness correlate with higher levels of sexual functioning; in addition, muscular strength was associated with a higher number of sexual partners for women.
How exercise can improve your sexual health
Exercise enhances sexual health in a number of ways physically and psychologically. When you feel strong and healthy, you’re more likely to feel confident in your ability to perform well in bed. And given that exercise enhances cardiovascular and muscular health, the strength and stamina you gain in the gym literally transfers to strength and stamina in the bedroom.
Confidence and physical appearance
According to a 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, men who had “negative body attitudes and body self-consciousness during physical intimacy” were significantly more likely to experience sexual dissatisfaction. The same study found these feelings of self-consciousness were related to factors such as muscularity, body fat and genitalia.
Men aren’t the only ones whose sexual experiences may be hindered by negative body attitudes. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion measured physical fitness and self-concept in men and women, concluding that in both sexes, “total self-concept was related to both orgasm and sex drive/desire.”
Men and women who rated higher for their overall fitness tended to have higher ratings of self-concept and more positive sexual experiences.
If you’re confident in your physical health and fitness, you’ll likely feel better about stripping down for a romp in the sheets. In addition to the physical health benefits of exercise, it’s also a well-documented fact that regular exercise boosts mental health and perceptions of self.
Increased blood flow and oxygen delivery
The goal of cardio exercise—defined as any exercise that raises your heart rate to an optimal zone—is to improve cardiovascular health, and that doesn’t just mean building a stronger heart muscle.
Cardiovascular exercise improves all aspects of the cardiovascular system, enhancing your lungs’ ability to take in oxygen and your heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood effectively through your venous system. Cardio also encourages your cells to take in and assimilate this oxygen for more efficient cellular metabolism. If your cardiovascular health is good, blood flow to your sexual organs improves, which ultimately can improve sexual health and experience.
According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, men and women who self-reported higher cardiovascular exercise levels were less likely to experience erectile dysfunction (in men) or female sexual dysfunction (in women). In the 2018 study mentioned earlier that measured physical fitness, self-concept and sexual activity, the findings suggested arousal was predicted by cardiovascular endurance, particularly for women.
Of course, the inverse is true as well. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “poor blood flow to the penis or vagina affects a person’s ability to become aroused and have sexual intercourse,” with some studies indicating that as many as 30 to 50 percent of erectile dysfunction (ED) cases may be related to cardiovascular health.
Fortunately, cardiovascular exercise can help treat ED. Individuals looking to decrease ED should aim for 40 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week, according to a 2018 review article published in Sexual Medicine, noting that this prescription appears to decrease problems in men after six months of consistent training when ED is related to cardiovascular-related health concerns.
A natural byproduct of improved cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance is increased stamina. As you incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine, you’re likely to feel more energetic with everyday tasks and less likely to feel wiped out by the end of the day.
That means when it comes to sexual performance, you’re less likely to tire out as quickly. If a 10-minute sex session once felt like a marathon, you may be surprised to find you can keep up the foreplay and the main event for longer before the final event.
Of course, this increased stamina relates specifically to your cardiovascular and muscular endurance, not how long it takes you to have an orgasm. But since we know that improved cardiovascular fitness may also enhance arousal and sexual function, improving your stamina could pay off when it comes to orgasms as well.
Better flexibility and strength
Let’s be honest: If you’re looking to go beyond the missionary position, the more adventurous sex positions require physical gymnastics and strength that may be beyond your current health status. If your body doesn’t “bend that way,” or if you don’t have the muscular strength to lift your partner or to hold a position for more than a few seconds, you may end up missing out on some carnal enjoyment.
Engaging in a regular, well-balanced fitness routine could help you develop the strength and flexibility you need to get a little more creative in the bedroom. Think about it: The benefits of squats and planks could transfer easily to positions like the “wheelbarrow” or the “butter churner.” So go ahead and add a strength workout to your program two to three times a week, and be sure to stretch afterward. Your body, and your sex partner, will thank you.
Exercising to improve sexual health: how much, how often
The good news is you don’t have to become a marathon runner or a CrossFit athlete to reap sexual health benefits. Incorporating the physical activity recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good start.
The goal each week is to rack up at least 150 minutes of exercise, including moderate-intensity cardio, at least two sessions of muscle-targeting exercise, and two sessions of flexibility and balance training. But, as the CDC points out, some activity is better than none, so align your physical activity with your doctor’s recommendations and your personal comfort level and get ready to rumble.