from HealthyWomen’s e-newsletter, HealthyWomen Take 10
You know all of the good-for-you arguments for becoming more physically active, but here’s an especially attractive reward: exercise can improve your sex life.
Being physically active helps you feel more interested in sex, gives you the energy and strength you need for enjoying your partner or yourself more, reduces the stress that can block sexual interest and builds the muscles used in sexual intimacy.
Research shows that exercise boosts women’s sexual arousal—even if they were experiencing low sexual desire before starting physical activity. That effect is strongest 15 minutes after exercising (a good reason to work out at home!).
These exercises can help increase your sexual interest and pleasure:
- Aerobic exercise of all types—brisk walking, dancing, bike riding, swimming, jogging—improves blood flow, which supports sexual arousal. It also increases lung capacity and cardiac endurance for sustaining sexual activities as long as you want.
- Do floor exercises to strengthen your flexibility and stamina. While lying on your back, try gentle pelvic arches, lower body lifts and thigh stretches. And don’t forget the importance of being able to support your body’s weight during sex. To get in shape for that, lie on the floor face down and do modified push-ups (keep lower leg bent on the mat or carpet).
- Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and are known for improving urinary incontinence in women and men, but these exercises also may help women reach orgasm and increase sexual functioning. Go here and here to learn more about how to perform Kegel exercises.
- Pilates and yoga both build core muscles and so are likely to benefit sexual activity. Women have reported anecdotally that these methods have helped them. A 2010 study found that Pilates improved pelvic muscle strength as much as a pelvic floor muscle-training program in women with little or no functional problem. Recent yoga research determined that women enrolled in a 12-week yoga program significantly improved their sexual functions in all categories: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and less pain
For more on sexual health, visit: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/sexual-health
University of British Columbia Sexual Psychophysiology and Psychoneuroendocrinology Laboratory. “Sympathetic Nervous System Arousal and Sexual Functioning.” http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~bglab/female.html.
Price J. Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty. ( Emeryville , CA : Seal Press, 2006.)
Mayo Clinic. “Kegel Exercises: How to Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles.” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kegel-exercises/WO00119. Accessed January 7, 2010 .
Zahariou AG, Karamouti MV, Papaioannou PD. “Pelvic Floor Muscle Training Improves Sexual Function of Women with Stress Urinary Incontinence.” International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. 2008 Mar;19(3):401-6. Epub 2007 Sep 18.
Culligan PJ, Scherer J, Dyer K, et al. “A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Pelvic Floor Muscle Training to a Pilates Exercise Program for Improving Pelvic Muscle Strength.” International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Epub 2010.
Dhikav V, Karmarkar G, Gupta R, et al. “Yoga in Female Sexual Functions.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Epub 2009.
© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.