Exercise has plenty of amazing benefits. It improves your memory, prevents disease, and helps manage weight. Another major plus: Working out can do wonders for your sex life. We chatted with Dr. Tina M. Penhollow, an associate professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion at Florida Atlantic University, who says, “Being active is a potent aphrodisiac for both women and men.” Intrigued? Here’s what she said about how exercise affects your sex life.
Working out makes you feel sexy.
You know that feeling when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the gym mirror and think, “Damn, I look good!” Well, that confidence comes with you to the bedroom. Regular exercise helps improve self-esteem. When we personally like how our bodies look, we’re more likely to want to show them off to our partners. “Being active leads to a more positive body image,” Dr. Penhollow explains. “This can raise self-esteem and make people feel more sexy, confident, and attractive and thus more likely to engage in sexual activities.” This self-confidence boost comes at any size. If you’re moving your body regularly, you’re on the right track.
Exercise enhances your sexual performance.
As with any form of physical activity, being in good shape helps you perform at your best. A University of California study found that for men, regular exercise significantly enhanced “frequency of various intimate activities, the reliability of adequate functioning during sex, [and] percentage of satisfying orgasms.” For women, the perks are similar. According to research by the University of Texas, exercise increases “physiological sexual arousal in women.” This means that after a workout, these ladies are more likely to be turned on than those who haven’t exercised.
Dr. Penhollow agrees that exercise affects your sex life by helping sexual performance. “Participating [in] and maintaining a regular exercise regimen that increases heart rate, breathing, and muscle activity can enhance sexual performance and sexual satisfaction, which can ultimately lead to a better sex life,” she says. Now that’s a reason to hit the gym.
Physical activity reduces stress—and stress is a mood killer.
When you’re stressed, your body reacts in many different ways (including sabotaging your workout)—and your libido can suffer as well. Stress causes your body to produce more of the hormone cortisol, which over time can decrease your interest in sex. Because exercise is known to produce feel-good endorphins and lower cortisol levels, working out reduces stress and, in turn, helps maintain a healthy sex drive.
Dr. Penhollow points out that exercise is known to reduce depression as well, which is another condition that can have a negative effect on your libido. So, in short, if you work out on the reg, you’re more likely to want to have sex often, too.
Working out improves blood circulation.
Runners, rejoice: Cardio is good for getting it on. According to Dr. Penhollow, aerobic exercise such as vigorous walking, jogging, swimming, or biking improves your circulation. This is a key factor in sexual response (good blood flow also decreases the likelihood of erectile dysfunction for men). “Sexual activity is an entire body experience, so it is important to keep muscles, blood vessels, and nerves performing at peak levels,” she says.
Strength and flexibility help with sex positions.
If you practice yoga regularly, chances are you’re more flexible than most. This is a good thing if you want to try different positions in the bedroom that are more…acrobatic. When it comes to simply having the body strength to hold certain sexual moves, toned muscles come in handy. Plus, Dr. Penhollow says that strength-training exercises such as weightlifting have been shown to increase libido. Win-win.
Things to Remember
While exercise affects your sex life positively, too much can have diminishing returns, Dr. Penhollow says. “If an individual is too physically exhausted, generally overworked, or stressed, [they] may not be able to sexually perform at an optimal level,” she explains. Plus, how exercise affects your sex life also depends on your age and physical condition.
Her suggestion? “Sticking to a regimented exercise program has the greatest long-term benefits to one’s sex life,” she says. Because just like any other form of physical activity, consistency is key.