Whether you’re looking for ways to boost a stagnant sex drive or to simply add fuel to an already fiery routine, prioritizing workouts may be the way to go. And I don’t mean meeting potential partners at your CrossFit box or yoga studio—although that’s certainly a possibility, too.
Why? Exercise affects your body—physically, psychologically, and emotionally—in complex ways that can then translate into a revved up libido and better orgasms.
Sure, many aspects of sex are mental, but it’s still a supremely physical act. And depending on how you’re going about it, plenty of exercise’s body benefits can help turn things up a notch: Endurance will allow you to keep things going as long as you’d like; flexibility will allow you to try positions that may not be available to you otherwise. And then…muscles.
“You have more muscles, activate more muscles, and learn how to contract your muscles,” says Ariel Iasevoli, a master trainer at Crunch Gym, of those who flex on the regular. “You also learn how to stabilize and how to move better.”
What else keeps things booming in the bedroom? Keep reading for five ways that gym time improves your sex life.
1. You can use your strength between the sheets
And don’t forget about the muscles in your pelvic floor, which you can exercise easily, without going to the gym, via Kegels. “The fact is that stronger pelvic floor muscles, in general, are good for better orgasm quality,” says Logan Levkoff, PhD, a highly credentialed sex expert and educator.
2. You’ll have a better self-image
“People who exercise regularly, in research, tend to have better body image and more self-confidence than those who don’t,” says Dr. Levkoff. That’s key, because feeling good about yourself could be directly related to how fulfilling your sex life is. In fact, a 2012 review of research on the topic found that “body-image issues can affect all domains of sexual functioning,” from desire to arousal to satisfaction.
Iasevoli says she witnesses the effect with clients at Crunch all of the time. “It’s not just because they look better, but it’s because they realize that their body can do a lot of amazing things and they start respecting it for that,” she explains. “They look at their legs and think, ‘They can squat a ton of weight,’ and start to see that as a sexy thing.”
Dr. Levkoff says self-confidence may also allow you to communicate your needs better, which can lead to more satisfying experiences. (Emotional fluency is a key trait of successful relationships, after all.)
3. Your arousal increases
Small studies have shown that after working out, women were more aroused (gauged by cool scientific measurements like “vaginal pulse amplitude” and “vaginal blood volume”…yup), with follow-up research showing that could be partially due to how exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system.
There’s also the fact that exercise boosts blood flow to the genitals, which can’t be a bad thing. “Increased blood flow certainly has the potential to increase arousal,” confirms Dr. Levkoff.
4. Your libido may get a hormonal boost
The science on how exercise affects testosterone levels in women and men is complicated, and serious endurance exercise (like triathlon training) may actually lower testosterone levels in the body.
But some studies have shown that resistance training, specifically, can cause women’s testosterone levels to rise, which is great for libido. “Increased testosterone levels definitely increase desire,” says Dr. Levkoff. “If we do produce more testosterone, we’re more likely to have more desire.” Bring on the heavy weights?
5. Your mental health will benefit
Research has shown that exercise’s ability to curb depression and anxiety is powerful (plus, both depression itself and the use of antidepressants can lead to low sex drive). So it stands to reason that working out could help you manage depression, which in turn would have a positive impact on your sex life. Studies have backed it up, showing exercise can improve arousal in women taking antidepressants. And, well, have you ever felt the thrill of an endorphin rush, right before sex? The anecdotal evidence is strong and sweaty.
“Your heart is pumping. It kind of feels like having a crush on someone,” Iasevoli says. “Once you have that feeling, you think, ‘What are other ways I can feel this?'” I’ll let you fill in the blank on that one.
Certain forms of yoga have always been connected to sex, of course—here’s how to have mind-blowing orgasms, the Kundalini way. Or try this five-minute, libido-boosting meditation.