Oysters, Asparagus, that weird fruit full of seeds that gets stuck in your teeth whenever you eat it. What do all these things have in common? SEX, that’s what. But what about training? What is pumping iron and hitting up your weekly meta-fit class doing for your libido? Google how training can impact your sex life and the answer is anything but simple.
So which is it? Turns out that exercise and sex can impact each other a lot and none of the articles are wrong per se. Whether lifting is lowering your libido is dependent upon a lot of varying factors and none of the research is conclusive. However, the studies are certainly interesting and something to consider next time you’re doing your hip thrust making eye contact with with that sexy guy or gal on the bench next to you.
We’ll start with the positives and the good news is there are many. As we all know exercising regularly improves our mental as well as physical health, which both have a direct bearing on how much you’re going to fancy a little bit of sexy time and how much you enjoy it. The boost of endorphins in the brain that come from training regularly is followed up by an increased self-esteem. You’re feeling sexy and confident, you’re more likely to fancy having sex. Simples. Essentially, your libido mirrors your feelings in other aspects of your life.
Training regularly also has physical as well as mental benefits that can increase those sexual urges. Sex therapist, Dr. Madeleine Castellanos told Buzzfeed:
‘Your whole sexual response has so much to do with blood flow…When you’re turned on, your erectile tissue fills with blood (whether your erectile tissue is external, as with the penis, or internal, as with the vagina), so in order to be able to fully experience genital arousal, good circulation is essential.’
So what does this have to do with training? Well, regular exercise can help improve our blood circulation. Better blood flow equals better orgasms. Exercise also activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which turns out is very important when it comes to genital arousal – one study showed that women who cycled for just 20 minutes were more aroused as they watched an erotic film than those who watched the movie without exercising beforehand. Worth doing cardio for? I’ll let you decide that one for yourself. Regardless of your answer (I’m not judging, cardio is bad and they never jump of a treadmill in 50 shades so…), exercise has been proven to be so good at stimulating the SNS that it is often recommended to people talking anti-depressants to help with their sex drive and sexual enjoyment. One symptom of depression is a reduced ability to experience sexual pleasure, however, studies have shown that exercise can offer some relief due to its impact on the SNS.
Want stronger orgasms? Of course you do! Apparently exercise can help with this as well. Okay, I’m listening… Basically, when you have an orgasm your pelvic floor muscles contract and so keeping these muscles nice and strong means, in theory, your orgasm will be… well, nice and strong too. Kegels anyone? Not quite at the orgasm stage just yet? No need to worry because the stamina you have built up during exercise means you’re going to be lasting longer. Better conditioning, better endurance, better sex. Hallelujah she’s cracked it.
However, as much as I hate to break it to you all, there it’s not all good news when it comes to weight training and the ‘birds and the bees.’ When scientists at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill surveyed men about their workout routines and sex lives, they found men who took part in frequent and strenuous exercise were more likely to have low libidos. 1,100 endurance and experienced athletes were evaluated for the study and overall, the results showed that strenuous exercise reduced sex drive while men who engaged in light or moderate exercise routines reported moderate or high libidos. Researchers came to the conclusion, therefore, that there is a libido tipping point when it comes to exercise. Dr Hackney called this an ‘inverted U’, so up to a point exercise will increase your sex drive but if you go beyond this point it’s more likely to be a night in your PJs with a tub of ice cream and a soppy rom com. Kind of like the Goldilocks principle: too little is not good, too much is not good either. Somewhere in the middle? Now, that is just right. Only we’re not talking about porridge, we’re talking about exercise…
Research on us ladies is not quite as solid and any studies that have been done have tended to focus on acute effects of exercise, which basically means the immediate response the body has to 20 minutes of moderate exercise. This does not take into account women that are training long term and who are working out at above 70% MHR for a 20 minute period. Some research has also shown that this effect can be a lot more severe than for men – not good. Over exercising for women can result in hypopituitarism (Er, come again…). Basically this can result in lower levels of oestrogen and testosterone which are the hormones that are responsible for when you get turned on. It is also worth considering here that too much exercise can also impact the female reproductive system as women need a certain level of body fat in order to be able to reproduce. Essentially, this means that if you are over-exercising to a point where your body fat is no longer healthy, then your body will shut down its capacity to become pregnant and so it makes sense that this could extend to your desire to have sex as well.
Certainly, there are a lot of different sources out there full of different information but I think this is an important talking point. It is easy to talk about the dangers of not doing any exercise and how this can impact our bodies mentally and physically, however, we also need to take into account what can happen when we take exercise to the extreme. Sex is just one example but there are many other examples that show that it so important to find a happy medium when it comes to training. If you are interested in reading more on this I have linked my sources below (some articles and some scientific reports) so feel free to take a look! They are super interesting. Until next time folks!