October 11, 2017 8 min read

By Cindy Kuzma. Partly edited by Dr. Elna Rudolph. The perfect playlist helps get you in the mood. Sweat beads on your skin, your heart races and your muscles contract. By the time you’re finished, you’re breathless, maybe drained, but also gloriously satisfied. What popped to mind first – your last great workout or your last sex session? Working out and getting busy between the sheets run along parallel cardiovascular, muscular and neurological pathways, which is why they set off similar chain reactions. Recently, researchers have made important discoveries about the body and brain connections of sex and exercise. “Being physically active seems to be a potent aphrodisiac for women,” says Dr Tina Penhollow, an associate professor of health promotion, who has published research on how exercise affects sexual self-esteem and self-perception. In fact, regular exercise may play a more important role in sexual satisfaction than many other factors, including stress, weight – even your current relationship status (or lack thereof). It makes sense then, that taking charge in the gym can lead to surprising benefits in the bedroom, and vice versa. In case you don’t believe us, read on for eight verified ways in which your workout can benefit your sex life.

1. Sharpen your focus

All too common: he’s showing you his best moves, but you’re thinking about your to-do list. “Exercise can help sync your mind to your body, as well as quiet your racing brain so you can focus on the task at hand”, says Dr Lori Brotto, director of the Sexual Health Laboratory at the University of British Columbia in Canada. If you engage in vigorous exercise regularly, you may not realise it, but you are also training your mind to become extremely focused.  Use this same focus when you are in bed together – focus on your breathing, the natural deeper breathing will make you more and more aroused. In the same way you do when you exercise, you focus on maintaining a rhythm, listen to the queues from your body to enhance pleasure. During exercise, you may push yourself harder or slow down a little - try doing the same in bed.

2. Fast-track your happy ending

Studies have shown that women who frequently exercise become aroused more quickly and are able to orgasm faster and more intensely. US researchers found that female study participants were 169 percent more aroused (as indicated by blood flow in genital tissue) while watching a short porn flick after 20 minutes of vigorous cycling than when they watched it without riding beforehand (and no, it had nothing to do with saddle placement). When you get excited, blood surges into the clitoral bulbs, making the entire region around the vagina responsive to pleasure. Cardio helps blood pump faster to the right parts of your body (great!); it can also reduce chronic inflammation, which can damage blood vessels and decrease circulation, putting a damper on your sexual bliss. Got your running shoes on yet?

3. Hit the sweet spot with HIIT

A healthy pair of lungs helps express your elation with more gusto, of course, but you’ll have a lot more to scream about if you learn to control your breath. Partners who breathe in tandem may create a bigger build-up, which can intensify pleasure. And women who take short, quick breaths as they reach climax – rather than holding their breath – may reduce carbon dioxide in the blood, possibly intensifying vaginal contractions. High-intensity interval training is one way to increase lung capacity; or try the 1:2 Pranayama yoga breathing technique. Lie on your back, knees bent, and take deep breaths. Increase the length of your exhalation until it’s double your inhalation. Aim for four seconds in, eight seconds out. Do this every day for five minutes with your partner. You’ll be vocalising your gratification through the grand finale later that night.

4. Rev your libido in the weights room

During a single resistance workout, your body produces higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone, hormones that play a pivotal role in muscle growth – and sex drive. A 2013 study found that hitting the weight room regularly (three days a week) keeps levels of these hormones higher. That, along with the stress-busting benefits of pumping iron, can stoke greater sexual desire, says Kim Chronister, author of The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation.

5. Increase endurance with kettlebells

Some women can take 12 minutes – or longer – to orgasm. Many women are out of breath with minimal exercise long before 12 minutes.  Make sure you are fit enough to get every possible ounce of pleasure from sex.  Once you’re there, about to orgasm, you definitely don’t want to miss out due to a lack of endurance! If your body fizzles out prior to that, you may be missing out, says sex therapist Denise Onofrey. Regular physical activity improves stamina and trains your muscles to hold out longer by using energy more efficiently. The result? You won't have to pause prematurely to give your aching arms or tired legs a break during your next epic sex session. Try adding two sets of eight barbell squats and kettlebell lunges to your workout to strengthen your glutes, quads, hamstrings and biceps, which will take the brunt of the exertion during most bedroom workouts.

6. Feel sexier with a sweat session

Turns out, exercise also transforms the way you view your body – and how you enjoy sex. Penhollow found that women who exercised frequently and reported higher levels of personal fitness were more likely to rate their desirability and sexual performance high above average. Researchers found that women of all <ital.> sizes who reported greater body appreciation (for their physical abilities, such as progress in the weight room) were more easily aroused, enjoyed sex more and had more orgasms.

7. Lighten your mood

Even feeling just a little down in the dumps can weaken desire, says Chronister. Exercise leads to an immediate rush of mood-lifting, stress-dissolving endorphins; it’s such a potent antidepressant that some research suggests regular workouts are as effective as psychiatric medications.

8. Shed weight and your inhibitions

Some women get seriously distracted – even totally turned off – when their partner touches one of their less-than-favourite body parts mid-romp. A consistent workout routine can help: when Italian researchers put a small group of obese women with sexual complaints in a supervised weight-loss program (that included diet and about 10 hours of low-intensity exercise per week), they not only lost an average of 15kg, but also reported higher levels of lubrication and sexual frequency after 16 weeks. Study authors note that weight loss does more than improve body image: it also helps improve insulin resistance. Overweight women whose bodies can’t use the hormone to process glucose also tend to have lower levels of testosterone, which dampens self-confidence and sexual response.

9. Heighten sensitivity with cardio

And we don’t mean crying during sex. The tissue that forms the clitoris contains 8 000 nerve fibres that extend into the entire pelvic region, including the vaginal walls. US researchers found that physical activity can also prime your body for sexual activity by making you more sensitive to touch and increasing the effect of stimuli by revving up a network of neurons that control your arousal.

True Or False

We separate sexercise facts from fiction... You can orgasm mid-exercise TRUE. US researchers found that about 40 percent of women who reported having an exercise-induced orgasm (better known as “coregasms”) said it happened suring ab exercises, like leg raises. Next in line? Weight-lifting (27 percent), yoga (20 percent) and cycling (16 percent). Sex counts as a workout FALSE. Nice try, but in most cases, sex should be filed in the “light activity” category –next to bowling or a casual stroll. According to the Women’s Health/Men’s Health 2014 Sex Survey, you want sex to last 30 minutes. Even if it’s super intense, the effort isn’t enough to get you a free pass from the gym. Cycling can hurt your hoo-ha TRUE, but rarely: the excessive pressure that exists in cycling and horse riding is reported to cause sexual dysfunction, says Dr Irwin Goldstein, editor of The Journal Of Sexual Medicine. These activities can increase the risk of damage to your pudendal nerve, which sends signals to and from your clitoris. Wearing padded shorts can help reduce pressure.

The Power Of Pleasure

Having more sex can actually score you better results from your workouts. Solo sex counts too! PAIN RELIEF Research shows that female pain tolerance increases significantly during orgasm, thanks to a rush of hormones that act as natural painkillers. The effect can linger for up to two days, so there’s another pay-off: you may be able to push a little harder during your next workout. MIND GAMES People with active sex lives tend to work out more and have better dietary habits than those who get it on less often. Why? During sex, as well as exercise, your brain releases higher levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that fuels motivation. The brain learns to seek more both in the bedroom and the gym, says Kim Chronister, author of The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation. SWEET DREAMS After an orgasm, levels of prolactin and oxytocin rise, bringing on a drowsy feeling, which helps improve sleep quality over time, says Chronister. That’s crucial for your fitness: sleep spikes levels of muscle-building hormones and aids recovery. HAPPY HEART Research has found that women who have more orgasms and more frequent sex may have a higher resistance to coronary heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

The Better-Sex Workout

Kegels aren’t the only exercise with down-below pay-offs. Bring on the fireworks with these four simple strength moves from trainer Jennifer Searles. For more gratifying sessions in the sack, mix three sets of each into your regular gym routine up to three days a week. HIP THRUST This motion improves hip mobility and glute strength to increase your dynamic power (or, shall we say, your thrust capacity). DO IT: Lie face-up on the floor, knees bent and feet flat (A). Press through your heels to raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees (B); squeeze your glutes for 10 seconds, then lower hips without letting them touch the floor. That’s one rep. Do 12. WALL SIT This isometric move builds strength in stillness – perfect for helping you hold tricky positions longer. DO IT: Lean against a wall with your feet about 60cm away from it, then bend your knees to 90 degrees and raise your arms in front of you. Hold for 60 seconds. (Too easy? Place a weight in your lap.) HIP-FLEXOR STRETCH Whether you have a kinky new pose you’re dying to try or you just want to be able to wrap your legs around him, developing more hip flexibility is crucial. DO IT: Kneel with one foot in front of you, knees bent at 90 degrees. Keep your torso upright and rest your hands on your hips (A). Gently push your hips forward as far as you can, maintaining an upright torso (B). Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Quick Tip Increase the intensity of the stretch by raising your opposite arm straight overhead. LEG-LOWERING DRILL Be warned: this core toner may cause more intense Os. DO IT: Lie face-up on the floor, arms out, and raise both legs to 90 degrees (A). Keeping your legs together and core engaged, slowly lower your legs, stopping just before they touch the floor (B). Pause, then slowly raise them back to start. That’s one rep; do 10. Quick Tip Keep your legs tightly together and your knees slightly bent.  

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