Exercising With Your Partner Can Boost Your Sex Life
Is there a sweeter feeling in life than finishing a challenging workout, chugging water and stretching, all while endorphins swim throughout your bloodstream?
Yes, there is. And that's if you're sharing that moment of euphoria with your significant other.
Regularly going to the gym and sweating with your sweetie reaps rewards for your sex and relationship health, according to Denver-based personal trainer and performance psychology expert Saara Haapanen, Ph.D. The key, she said, lies in maintaining endurance and accountability.
"I teach people how to live optimally and have studied the science of success and motivation, which applies to everything in your life, whether it's the gym or the bedroom," she said. "I've trained with couples and I've seen it work."
She has also seen it not work.
"It's about showing up with another person at the time you say and keeping that commitment to one another," she said. "Setting a time to work out and sticking to it is a great way to build that commitment muscle, whether in a new or old relationship."
The rewards of shared workouts
Studies indicate that couples who share fitness targets achieve these goals more frequently. There's evidence to suggest we are more likely to feel in love and satisfied in our relationships after sharing a physically challenging activity such as a workout.
This is because tackling shared challenges in a controlled setting like a gym can boost trust and camaraderie between two people, Haapanen said.
"I have the saying, 'If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you,'" she said. "There's something very special about connecting with another human when you're both working toward the same goal. I actually met my husband of almost 20 years when we were on the same team.
"When you're pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, when things get hard and you keep going anyway, if you're doing that with someone else, that's a great way to build a relationship and build trust."
There's nothing like an accountability buddy to keep you on track to meet your fitness goals. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, we are more likely to follow through with healthy behavior changes if our significant other does, too.
"I have a job as a personal trainer because it's hard to be accountable to ourselves, right?" Haapanen said. "We keep promises to so many other people, yet we're the first person to ditch out on whatever we say we're going to do for ourselves. I think the most challenging thing is actually showing up.
"When you have the accountability from someone else to show up in the gym, it's going to be easier to get things done. Just by moving your body, you're going to get a lot of dopamine released, which is your reward hormone. That then makes it easier to do again."
If you and your partner work out together on a regular basis with the aim of increasing mobility and flexibility, Haapanen said sex can become more physically adventurous than before.
"You'll be stronger, and you can have better mobility and flexibility to get yourself into random positions," she said. "You'll also have better endurance when you have better cardiovascular fitness."
Exercise creates the same sensations we experience when aroused, such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath and sweating, according to Mumbai-based forensic psychiatrist and sexologist Ketan Parmar, M.D. So why not use a shared workout as foreplay to fuel your next session in the sack?
"Raising your heart rate together helps to create a bond that can be felt even outside of the gym," he added. "Exercise has been proven to induce symptoms of physiological arousal, which can lead to improved physical intimacy between partners. Working out releases endorphins and natural hormones that can increase feelings of attraction and closeness."
Some pitfalls to shared workouts
Sadly, it's not all glistening sweat and come-hither glances shot across the gym. Sharing workouts can mean you lose out on "me time" and you may run into conflict over differences in fitness levels and preferences. For this reason, Parmar advised against turning your shared fitness goals into a competition, unless both parties agree to it.
"It's important to remember that each person has different fitness goals and not to compare one another," Parmar said. "It can also be helpful to focus on the positive aspects of the workout routine rather than any negative feelings that may arise. If either partner feels like they're getting too competitive or no longer enjoying the exercise, then it might be better for them to work out alone."
Haapanen said she often reminds her clients that no matter how hard we try, we can't change anyone other than ourselves. So if your partner isn't feeling the gym anymore (or at all), don't force it.
"If I'm training one person and they want their significant other to work out but the significant other does not want to, that's when it doesn't work," she said. "Even though I specialize in motivation, I will not be able to make another human being do something they don't want to."
How to get started
Some of Haapanen's most rewarding experiences as a personal trainer have occurred when she is training couples devoted to a shared fitness goal.
"When it works gloriously, it's because both partners want to be there," Happanen said. "Everyone works a little harder in that relationship, including me, because we're a community with the same goal."
So are you ready to make your significant other your gym buddy?
The first step is to craft a plan both parties can stick to in the long term because fitness goals are never achieved overnight, Haapanen said.
"Sit down with your partner to figure out what your goals are and then create a plan to make it happen," she said. "Let's say you want to strengthen your core or you want to increase flexibility and mobility in your hips. You can't just work it out once—you have to build it up. Give yourself a timeline, a schedule and a few tries. Commit to it for at least a few weeks just to see how it really feels. It takes time repeating the work, building that habit, doing it over and over again."
If becoming a pair of gym rats isn't for you and your partner, opt for a group fitness class, join a sports league or try an outdoor activity that gets your hearts racing all the same, Haapanen said. Whatever you choose, aim to keep it fun, not losing sight of this being a prime opportunity to spend quality time with your loved one.
"Try a salsa class, Zumba or Pilates," she said. "Try mountain biking. Learning a new skill with someone else is a really great way to build a connection quickly. Have this revolve around fun, and then it'll be more sustainable. You'll be more likely to do it, you'll get more dopamine from even just thinking about it, and then you'll take action to actually reach your goals."