You know that exercise is good for you: It keeps your heart and brain healthy, helps you sleep better, and boosts your immune system.
Another perk of blood-pumping movement? A better love life.
“Sexual activity is an entire-body experience, so it is important to keep muscles, blood vessels and nerves performing at peak levels,” says Tina Penhollow, PhD, MCHES, of Florida Atlantic University. “Regular exercise has been shown to significantly enhance frequency of intimate activities, physiological arousal, the reliability of adequate functioning during sex and the percentage of satisfying orgasms.”
How Exercise Boosts Your Love Life
There are several ways that regular exercise can make things more lively in the bedroom.
Exercise Improves Sexual Performance
Sure, there’s an emotional side to sex—but it’s still a largely physical act.
“Participating and maintaining a regular exercise regimen that increases heart rate, breathing and muscle activity can enhance sexual performance and sexual satisfaction that can ultimately lead to a better sex life, “ says Penhollow. “Research suggests that exercise is crucial for sexual desire and sexual functioning for both men and women, as it helps to maintain stamina and energy levels for sexual performance.”
Strength training gives you the physical strength to hold more acrobatic positions. Plus, it can power up muscle coordination and contraction, making your moves between the sheets more memorable.
Exercise Improves Flexibility
Hitting the weights can make you more flexible, too.
“People always talk about yoga as the best way to improve flexibility,” says personal trainer Carly Pizzani. “But if you’re working through your whole range of motion and building strength through that range of motion, your flexibility will improve.”
Kegels Improve Sexual Functioning
Don’t forget about your pelvic floor muscles, the ones that support the organs in your lower abdomen.
“A properly functioning pelvic floor, one that can contract and relax, can enhance your sex life physiologically and emotionally,” says Abby Bales, DPT, owner of Reform Physical Therapy in New York City. (One huge enhancement: better orgasms.)
Bales recommends performing a variety of Kegel exercises, in which you draw your pelvic floor muscles up and together while pulling your belly button inward and upward. If you’re not sure how to isolate them, try stopping your urine stream a few times—those are the ones. (Kegels offer the bonus for women of protection against urine leakage while coughing or laughing.)
Exercise Increases Stamina
You want each bedroom session to be an endurance event, so it’s important to build your aerobic capacity: Think steady, even-paced activities like running, cycling, swimming or rowing, and aim for 30 minutes or more.
“If you’re in the mood for crazy-fast quickies, then high-intensity interval training can help,” says Pizzani. “It’s great to help your body recover from spikes in your heart rate.”
Exercise Enhances Self-Esteem
Negative body image can be a huge mood kill. In fact, researchers have found that how a woman perceives her body can affect sexual behavior and function, including desire, arousal and satisfaction in the bedroom.
However, hitting the gym regularly can boost your body image—and make you feel more attractive and sexy.
“One of the best parts of exercise is that it’s going to help you get in touch with your body and what you’re capable of doing, which can increase self-esteem and confidence,” says Pizzani. “That’s going to translate to sex, your relationships and how you feel about your body.”
Exercises Elevates Libido
“Being active is a potent aphrodisiac,” says Penhollow. “It’s been shown to increase endorphin levels and libido, and reduce depression.” In addition, exercise, especially strength training, can boost testosterone levels in both men and women, which is linked to sexual arousal.
Among men, regular exercise has been associated with more frequent intimate activities and more satisfying orgasms as well as fewer physical malfunctions. Among women, researchers have found that exercise before hitting the sheets increased arousal. This effect held true even for women taking antidepressants, which can put a damper on sexual desire.
One of the major libido killers? Stress. “Sexual activity is as much mental as it is physical. After all, your biggest sex organ is your brain,” says Penhollow. Physical activity is one of the best ways to de-stress and relax, thanks to the feel-good endorphins pumping through your blood.
Your Better Sex Workout
Pizzani has designed a program that hits all the major muscle groups involved in sexual athleticism—hips, glutes, core, upper body and pelvic floor. Since you want to go for endurance, perform 15 to 20 reps of each move and aim for two to three rounds.
Want to build your lower body endurance? There’s nothing like wall sits to feel the burn.
1. Stand with your back flat against a wall. Your feet should be hips-width apart and about two feet out.
2. Slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground; your knees should be in a 90° angle directly above your ankles. Adjust your feet as necessary.
3. Hold this position for 30 seconds, building up to one minute or longer. Then, slowly stand.
4. To increase the degree of difficulty: Place a stability ball between your lower back and the wall, then lower into a wall-sit position while simultaneously rolling the ball down. Slowly straighten your legs and roll the ball up the wall for one rep.
Hip thrusts build glute and hamstring strength, adding more power and endurance to your bedroom moves.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor; your feet should be close to your hips and your fingertips should just about brush your heels. Draw your shoulder blades under you slightly.
2. Engage your glutes as you lift your hips up. Be sure that you’re not clenching around your tailbone.
3. Slowly lower your hips until your buttocks gently tap the floor for one rep.
4. To increase the challenge, place a yoga block or ball (like a kid’s playground ball) between your inner thighs. Hold while completing the exercise.
Squat with Kegels
This move hits all the major lower-body muscle groups—glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs and pelvic floor—to improve power and range of movement.
1. Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Then push your hips back like you’re trying to sit in a chair while keeping your head and chest up, shoulders relaxed and back straight. Keep moving the hips back and the knees will start to bend, but don’t let the knees pass the toes.
2. As you press through your feet to stand, exhale. As you come out of the squat, engage your glutes and perform a Kegel to engage the pelvic floor muscles.
3. To increase the challenge, you can hold a weight in front of your chest to perform the exercise. The last few reps should be difficult.
4. You can also sit on the edge of a low bench with your feet wider than hips-width and your hips slightly lower than your knees, which should be at a 90° angle. Propel yourself to standing by engaging the glutes, hamstrings, quads and pelvic floor. Lower back to starting position by pushing the hips back to find the bench (rather than bending the knees first).
The captain’s chair or hanging leg-raise station is found in most gyms: It has a padded backrest and two padded arms. These knee raises target your hip flexors while using your abs to stabilize your body in a suspended position.
1. Stand in the captain’s chair with your arms resting on the rests, and grasp the handles.
2. Brace your core. Exhale and lift your knees up until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
3. Inhale and slowly lower your legs.
Cobra Plank Lowers
This exercise is a great way to build strength in the upper body—so you can support your own body weight—as well as greater core strength and flexibility.
1. Lie facedown on a mat with the tops of your feet on the mat (soles facing up). Place your hands at chest level, close to your body.
2. With your feet, legs and pelvis remaining on the ground, press through your hands to lift your chest up into a cobra position. Elbows can stay bent and close to the body.
3. Tuck your toes. Push through the balls of your feet and straighten your arms. Lift your hips so that you are in a high plank position—like the top of a pushup.
4. Keep your elbows close to your body and slowly lower back to the floor; try to lower your body in one straight line. Draw you belly button in towards the spine and keep the hips and thighs lifted as you lower.
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