Keep Pace With Your Sexual Health
Running can be hard on your joints and your body, but many enthusiasts and experts alike will tell you how beneficial running is to overall health, including sexual health.
"Running is great for sexual health because it stimulates endorphins, which in turn help stimulate certain neurotransmitters in our brains," said Sonia Bahlani, M.D., a New York-based sexual health advisor at the personal lubricant brand Astroglide. "These neurotransmitters are things like serotonin and dopamine, which are both helpful in arousal."
Bahlani explained that running helps promote the internal secretion of endorphins and, thereby, excitatory neurotransmitters.
"In fact, part of the medication that is used in treating sexual arousal disorders increases dopamine, so we are actually using the same pathways that are promoted during running," she added. "Running and other cardio exercises are helpful—especially for penis owners—because it increases vascular blood flow, which in turn is great for erections and sexual health."
Keep on running
Eric Ridenour, men's health researcher at Los Angeles-based wellness and fitness company Launch Medical, agreed running can provide benefits for your sexual health.
"First of all, running is excellent for cardiovascular health, which is key to preventing ED [erectile dysfunction] in men," he said.
As well as being good for your heart, running can help relieve stress and depression, help build stronger bones, strengthen muscles and aid in burning calories.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion indicated men with a high body mass index (BMI) had a 30 percent higher risk for erectile dysfunction than those with a healthy BMI, which is a measure of body fat based on weight and height.
"Half of the obese men reported difficulty with sexual performance, while over 40 percent reported problems with sexual desire," wrote the study author, Lia M. Jiannine. "Similarly, 40 percent of obese women reported that they did not enjoy sexual activity."
When running can be harmful
Bahlani noted that women who run a lot might miss their periods because the pituitary access is suppressed.
"This is often why there are prepubescent girls who are big athletes and have a later onset period. While this situation is not necessarily harmful, it should be evaluated," Bahlani advised.
For men engaging in high levels of exercise and running, cortisol levels can increase while testosterone levels may decrease. The decreased testosterone can lead to a decrease in arousal/desire and can affect erections, according to Bahlani.
A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise concluded exposure to higher levels of chronic intense exercise and greater durations of endurance training on a regular basis is significantly associated with decreased libido scores in men. The study goes so far as to recommend that clinicians who treat male patients for sexual disorders and/or counsel couples on infertility issues should consider the degree of endurance exercise training a man is performing as a potential complicating factor.
"Too much of anything can hurt you," Ridenour said. "If you run to the point of exhaustion, you can be left too tired to perform sexually."
Similarly, if someone puts too much emphasis on the need to run, exercise or lose weight, their stress levels may increase. Stress is notorious for being a libido killer, so when running becomes an obsession to the point of stress, it's no longer beneficial to your sex life.
Running has additionally been linked to urinary incontinence, which could lead someone to feel uncomfortable having sex. In a Mayo Clinic article, Heather Dunfee, a physical therapist in the clinic's Healthy Living Program, explained that many people think leaking while running is caused by a weak pelvic floor, but this is not always the case, or at least, not the only case.
The pelvic floor is crucial to the enjoyment of sexual intercourse for women. Kegel exercises help strengthen and tighten the pelvic floor, but the impact of running can undo all preventive work.
Other exercises for sexual health
If running is too hard on your joints or you simply don't enjoy it, some other exercises might also upgrade your sexual appetite.
Strengthening muscles, especially in a high-intensity weight training program, produces the same endorphins as running. Additionally, sexual desire and a healthy sex life are often related to self-image. If you feel at your best when your muscles are toned and defined, a weightlifting workout may give you more of a sexual boost than a cardio workout.
Yoga and pilates
Flexibility plays a big part in sex. The more options a couple have for positions, the more likely they are to engage in sexual activity more often and have fun, without feeling tired and achy afterward. Loosening and strengthening muscles around crucial joints, such as the knees and hips, results in being able to hold positions longer and use those muscles and joints for a longer period of time.
An endurance workout can be anything from walking to swimming. The idea is to do the workout in increased amounts of time to build up endurance. Not only do these workouts strengthen the heart, they also keep you from getting fatigued from repeated sexual activity.