Rebooting Libido: Exercise Rekindles DesireSep 28, 2018 11:57AM ● By Maya Whitman
Because exercise delivers so many benefits, it’s not surprising that one of them is increased libido. A low sex drive can affect either gender at any age, and contributing factors include hormonal changes, daily stressors and certain prescription drugs.
According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, short-duration bursts of exercise work to increase circulation and heart rate, thus amping up physiological arousal in women. Sexual performance is enhanced in men by exercising three to five times a week, according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
“Eating right and being committed to a daily exercise regimen that includes strength, cardiovascular and flexibility training is key to maintaining a great libido and continual excellence in sexual function,” affirms Dr. Jeffry Life, author of The Life Plan: How Any Man Can Achieve Lasting Health, Great Sex, and a Stronger, Leaner Body and owner of The Life Center for Healthy Aging, in Charleston, West Virginia.
Exercise increases testosterone, endorphins and adrenal hormones, all of which are essential to a satisfying sex life. Studies from the University of Texas at Austin show premenopausal women experience increased sexual response with exercise, including individuals with diminished sex drives due to the use of antidepressants.
“Stress is one of the biggest libido-killers in women, and endorphins released during exercise can reduce stress, improve libido and increase arousal,” maintains Stephanie Mansour, fitness expert and CEO of Step It Up with Steph, in Chicago, Illinois. “Adding 30 minutes of exercise a few times a week can increase endorphins, blood flow and testosterone.”
The inevitable hormonal changes of menopause and beyond can dampen a woman’s sex life, but it doesn’t have to become a way of life. “Women can experience side effects of shifting hormonal levels which cause libido to vanish and the vagina to become dry, making us feel anything but empowered,” explains Ellen Dolgen, the Coronado, California, author of Menopause Mondays: The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause. “Exercise, along with the guidance of a menopause specialist to help manage those hormonal changes, is a winning ticket. Life in our 40s, 50s and beyond can be wonderful!”
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Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem for many men, and can result from sedentary lifestyles, certain medications and cardiovascular issues. “ED is a huge problem worldwide, and vascular disease is one of the major causes,” says Life. “This can be avoided by eating properly and making exercise an essential part of everyday life, which can also reduce the need for prescription drugs that are another major cause of the problem.”
Strength Training and Yoga
Testosterone—a hormone that plays a significant role in lighting our “fire” and keeping it lit—can be enhanced by adding workouts with weights. “Strength training can boost testosterone, which may boost sex drive in both women and men. For men, I recommend lifting weights and doing push-ups. However, it’s important to note that too much intense exercise or strength training may have the opposite effect, and actually reduce the desire to have sex,” says Mansour.
In addition to a daily exercise program that includes cardio and flexibility exercises, Life concurs, “Thirty to 60 minutes of strength training three to four times a week is ideal.”
According to a review published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, yoga may increase both male endurance and female response. “Yoga turns off our sympathetic nervous system, the part that keeps us in ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Inversions like the shoulder stand help to harmonize hormones, supporting a well-balanced sex drive,” explains Pam Medina, owner of The Yoga Lily, in Clifton Park, New York. “We need to feel attractive, and yoga can help us to accept the body as a sacred vehicle for the soul.”
No matter the age or condition of the body, a more satisfying sex life and better self-image is possible through feeling fit. Life reminds us, “Check with your doctor before taking up an exercise regimen, and know that maintaining a healthy body can give us essential ingredients for a great sex life well into our 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.”
Maya Whitman is certified in bodywork and clinical essential oil therapy.
This article appears in the October 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.