Can Working Out Really Improve Your Sex Life? by Gabrielle Kassel
With Valentine’s Day just two weeks away and the release of the second Fifty Shades of Grey movie rapidly approaching, it’s not unusual to have an increased desire for romance, lust, or sex. But the Hallmark holiday and erotic movie might not be the only reason you’re feeling sexier or more in the mood…
The phenomenon is almost universal. After a few days or weeks at the gym we feel sexier, more confident, and our sex drive begins to make itself known. Is it in our minds? Actually, no.
Several studies have in fact shown that exercise causes a psychological as well as physiological improvement to our sex life. According to a recent study conducted by Match.com called the Fifth Annual Singles in America Study, 33 percent of singles who exercised more than twice a week had sex at least monthly, compared to only 20 percent of singles who rarely or never exercised. That’s a pretty significant increase for only two days a week.
Is the equation as simple as more exercise = more sex? Sort of. But there’s a scientific reason for it.
Exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system, which gets our blood pumping during and for physical activity, and which has also been shown to increase our levels of arousal. When our workout helps raise (or lower) our sympathetic nervous system to a moderate level (as all exercise does) our body becomes more physically and mentally primed to be responsive to sexual cues. To paraphase: getting our blood pumping at the right level can lead to sustained arousal.
While all exercise activates our sympathetic nervous system, and therefore increases arousal, there are three specific types of exercise that have been shown to
1. Crossfit. As someone who’s often disgruntled by the high-prices of CrossFit, I’m reconsidering after the same Match.com study showed that single CrossFitters not o nly have the most sex of any exercisers (45 percent had sex at least monthly in 2014), but that they go on more dates (in 2014 55 percent went on at least one). For a good laugh, check out this CrossFitter board where the athletes try to figure out if their increased sex drive is actually from CrossFit. Be prepared to see comments as funny as “ZOMG CF IS THE NEW VIAGRA” and as sensible as “there is an overall sense of wellness and increased strength and fitness that brings out the aliveness in us. The sex drive is one of several ways this manifests. Functional fitness has many forms.”
2. Yoga. The sex and yoga connection has existed, at least implicitly, since the beginning of time (yes, even before the internet). In fact, the practice of yoga existed on the fringe of society for the very reason that it was considered overtly sexual, and therefore rude. Historian Natalia Petrzela, PhD told Well+Good that “The s exual revolution made yoga even more about sex…but also about sweat. By the 1960s and ’70s, yoga popped up beyond secluded retreats and shadowy tantric clinics”. She shared that “paradoxically, yoga’s growing popularity as a quintessentially counter-cultural activity also spawned its more wholesome versions”.
Yet, yoga still carries with it sexual undertones that are perpetuated both by its counter cultural history, and the publication of articles wit h titles like “ 10 Yoga Moves That Will Improve Your Sex Life ”, “ 9 Yoga Poses That Double as Awesome Sex Positions ”, and “ 10 Sexy Yoga Videos That Might Actually Turn You On ” only continue to reinforce the sex/yoga connection.
Yoga increases flexibility (with moves such as the hip opener), reduces stress, and heightens body awareness, and therefore can increase our confidence and transitively impact our sex lives.
3. Weight Lifting. “It’s very well documented that exercise will improve sexual arousal for women,” Tierney Lorenz, PhD told Prevention. Weight-lifting specifically has been shown to boost the window of arousal after a workout because of how it affects the body. For example, while moderate levels of aerobic exercise, like jogging a mile or two spike arousal levels for 15 to 30 minutes afterward, adding weights to the mix makes the effect last. Lorenz says, “A moderate to intense strength training workout increases the arousal window to about 90 minutes”.
It’s certainly interesting that crossfit, yoga, and weightlifting have specifically been shown to correlate with better sex and an increased sex drive, that does not mean that any exercise won’t have that same effect. Sex itself is an intense physical activity requiring strength and endurance, so as you exercise both your strength and endurance will increase, meaning that more varied sexual positions which require greater physical control become possible.
From increased sexual endurance (aka cardio) to improved muscular strength, greater flexibility, and increased blood flow to the genital area, exercise provides various benefits to our bodies. So if you need some extra motivation to try that CrossFit class, check out a new yoga studio, or hit the weight rack… do it for the sex!