by Cindy Kuzma; Photography by Tom Corbet
Now that’s hot and heavy foreplay we’re into.
The time you spend working out can have unexpected pay-offs when you’re tangling the sheets. And understanding the link can help you achieve more explosive results – in the bedroom and the weights room.
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, and 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 vital 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 benefits in the bedroom, and vice versa. If you don’t believe us, read on for verified ways in which your workout can benefit your foreplay.
All too common: he’s showing you his best moves, but you’re thinking about your to-do list. You may not realise it, but exercise also trains your mind to become more focused. Bonus: you can use this focus in the bedroom too, says Dr Elna Rudolph, WH sexpert and clinical head of MySexualHealth.co.za. “Concentrate on your breathing and maintaining a good rhythm,” says Rudolph. “Then, just as you push yourself hard or pull back in the gym, listen to your body’s cues to enhance your pleasure”.
After that you can get back to thinking about the washing up.
Studies have shown that women who exercise frequently 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 the genital tissue) while watching when 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 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?
Builds stronger pipes
A healthy pair of lungs helps express your elation with more gusto, but you’ll have a lot more to shout about if you learn to control your breath. Partners who breathe in tandem may create a bigger build-up, intensifying the pleasure. And women who take short, quick breaths as they reach climax-rather than holding their breath-may reduce carbon dioxide in the blood, intensifying vaginal contractions. High-intensity interval training is one way to increase lung capacity; or try the 1:2 Pranayama yoga technique.
Lie on your back, knees bent and take deep breaths. Increase your exhalation till it’s double your inhalation- four seconds in, eight seconds out. Do this with your partner every day, for five minutes…and vocalise it in the “grand finale”!
Revs up your libido
During a single resistance workout, your body produces higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone than when you’re at rest; hormones that play a pivotal role in muscle growth- and sex drive. A 2013 study found that hitting the weights room regularly ( three days a week) keeps levels of these hormones higher.
Increases in sack endurance
Some women take 12 minutes- or longer-to orgasm. “The problem is many women get out of breath during low-intensity exercise long before 12 minutes”, says Rudolph, “and you don’t want to miss out due to a lack of endurance”. Regular physical activity improves stamina, and trains your muscles to hold out longer. The result? You won’t have to pause prematurely to give aching arms or tired legs a break during your next epic sex session. Add barbell squats and kettlebell lunges to your workout for added endurance!
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 sizes who reported greater body appreciation (for their physical abilities, such as progress in the weights room) were more easily aroused, enjoyed sex more and had more orgasms.
Lightens your mood
Even feeling just a little bit 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 medication.
Helps your shed inhibitions
Some women get very distracted- even totally turned off- when your partner touches one of the least-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 programme ( that included diet and about 10 hours of low-intensity exercise per week), they not only lost an average of 15 kg, 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.
Heightens your sensitivity
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 by making you more sensitive to touch, and increasing the effect of stimuli by revving up a network of neurons that control your arousal.