Do you know how many calories sex burns up? Do you know how many calories there are in an ejaculation? Do you know how many calories there are in a kiss? The answer is – not enough to make a difference! Sex won’t make you fat or thin, but sex does have a lot of the benefits of exercise. Even more importantly, exercise can greatly enhance your sex life. So talking about sex and exercise together makes a lot of sense – even if you’re not concerned with the calories that either one of them burns up. Besides, nothing can make you look and feel better than happy sex and consistent exercise. But only one of these is like a healthy bullet – and that’s exercise. You need to be in really good shape to have really good sex. AND just the ACT of exercising affects how you feel about your body, and how you initiate and respond sexually.
So today I’m going to give you the scoop about what kinds of exercises are key to your sex life. I’m going to be speaking mostly to women here, but there will also be some tips for men, that apply to men in your life. One caveat – a necessary disclaimer. Before you start an exercise program, or before you beef up an old exercise program, always speak to your doctor.
Let’s start with cardiovascular exercise, which improves stamina, circulation and gets blood flowing to all the right places. This is crucial to sexual health because blood flow to the genitals affects sensation, can affect orgasm, and in men certainly can affect erection. In fact, erectile problems in men are often the first sign of more serious illness – diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease. So think of erection problems as a health alarm that no man, or a woman who loves him, can afford to ignore.
Cardio exercise, when we talk about cardiovascular exercise, we mean exercise that brings your heart rate up to between 60 and 85% of your maximum capacity. For some people who are in incredibly good shape, it can even go beyond 85% – but generally speaking those are the numbers that experts cite. Walking, running, biking, getting on the treadmill, getting on any of the cardio training machine at the gym, all of those are good methods of gaining cardiovascular strength. Unfortunately, running around chasing your kids or chasing after a bus is not a good way to get cardio exercise, because it’s not sustained. Even though it may feel exhausting in the moment, it’s not something that keeps your heart rate up for any period of time. Experts often suggest doing at least thirty minutes of cardio exercise at least 3 days a week, but preferably every day, so that you’re always building up and you’re always challenging yourself. There are many methods and levels of doing cardio exercise, and you probably should consult a trainer or someone who’s a specialist in exercise physiology to be sure that you’re doing what’s best for you.
By the way, there’s another sexy bonus to exercising – in the first laboratory studies to look at exercise and female sexual response, a researcher has found that vigorous exercise appears to “prime” a woman’s body for sexual arousal shortly thereafter. Working out stimulates not only the body but the nervous system and the brain, so youre more physiologically excited and ready for sexual pursuits. A men’s study also found that previously inactive men who began exercising aerobically three to five days a week, for an hour, reported more and better sex.
So that kind of covers the cardio side of things – let’s take a look at muscle tone and muscle strength. In order to remain in many of the most pleasurable sexual positions, women need some serious upper and lower body strength. If you like riding on top during intercourse, the strength of your thighs and butt is going to matter a lot. If you like doggy style, then the strength of your upper body is going to matter a whole lot, because you’re going to need to be able to bear your full body weight with your shoulders, your upper back, your upper arms and your chest. So exercising those parts of your body with resistance – which usually means weights – is very important. If you need your lower body to be especially strong in order for you to stay in the positions you really like, then you’re looking at doing a lot more lunges and squats, because those are the exercises that your sexual activity actually mimics – or maybe it’s the other way around!
Men, too, have many more options if they can support their own body weight and their partners’. So that means that they need to be doing some resistance training too, especially if they’re desk jockeys and they don’t do a physical sort of work. So essentially, no matter what your sex or your age or your size, exercising for strength is important to your sexual satisfaction. Women sometimes worry about bulking up when they do weight training, but the fact is that unless you train extensively for hours just about every day you aren’t going to see that happen.
Core strength is also especially important for good sex. It provides support to all of your other muscles. By core, I mean the strength of your deep abdominal muscles, the layer beneath what you can actually see. If you think of your body as being like a wheel, and you think of your core as the hub, then your extremities are the spokes. So you can see why the core is so important for stability and for balance and for the strength of all of your muscles. There are many ways to develop core strength but one of the best is pilates, because it develops both core strength and full-body strength, and flexibility. Male or female, you need core strength for that central balance and for pelvic lift and hip rotation in many sexual positions. There’s nothing more disappointing than finding a position that makes you feel especially good, and feeling yourself becoming more and more excited only to have to break out of that position because you just aren’t strong enough to hold it. Yes, you can switch to another position – of course you can. But the point is that sometimes you really don’t want to have to.
So this brings us to flexibility. Many sexual positions require us to be limber and flexible, especially in the inner thighs, the hip flexors, the psoas muscle, the lower back. Whether your legs are spread wide, or whether your knees are drawn back, and how far, is entirely dependent on how flexible you are, and that can affect genital sensation. The angle of penetration or just the angle of tilt, in a lot of sexual acts, can make a tremendous difference in what you feel, both internally and externally. So again, you don’t want to have to move around and switch positions just because you can’t sustain a stretch or an open position that was really pleasurable otherwise. On the downside, too – you can actually injure yourself if you are having vigorous sex and you aren’t flexible enough or stretched out well enough to be able to handle it.
If you want to get really serious about flexibility, both yoga and pilates can offer tremendous bonuses. Of course, you can do ordinary stretches, and most exercise books and magazines show you how to do many of them safely. But yoga and pilates offer extra benefits. They teach you to breathe deeply into your solar plexus, and that kind of deep breathing not only helps you coordinate it with your exercise to make your exercise more fruitful, but it’s also something that you can bring into your lovemaking experience. Breathing can affect your orgasms, especially if you’re doing any kind of spiritually oriented sexual practice like tantra or taoist sexuality. That kind of deep breathing is also a way to connect at a heart chakra level with your partner.
All kinds of exercise can ground your body and your sensations, so no matter what you do, you want to be sure that you start doing something that you can keep doing. It needs to be something that you enjoy. Grounding your body in your exercise means really feeling everything that you do. Feeling the contraction of every muscle, using what your sensations are like to determine your proper form and position, not just relying on the mirror. Whenever you’re tuned into your body and what it’s capable of, you’re going to feel a lot more sensual, both while you’re doing it and afterwards. And you can bring this quality into the bedroom so that when you’re making love, you’re just as mindful and just as fully in your body and in your physical experience.
If you combine stamina – which cardio gives you, with muscle strength, which resistance training gives you, with flexibility, which yoga or pilates or stretching can give you, then the choices that you make about your sexual repertoire won’t be seriously limited by what your body can’t do, or what kind of the exertion you can’t handle. Sometimes people say they’re too tired for sex, when what they really mean is they’re just not in shape for sex. So at the end of the day, when it feels as though making love with somebody you care about is going to be a tremendous exertion, maybe it’s just because you haven’t built your body up to the point where you can handle this exertion. And that takes a toll not only on your own pleasure, but on your relationship.
And there’s one more form of exercise that directly influences your sexual experience. It influences your sensations and your orgasms and, if you’re a man, your ability to have multiple orgasms. I’m sure you’ve heard about Kegel exercises. Sometimes they’re referred to as PC muscle exercises. But either way, these are about exercising the muscles of your pelvic floor in both men and women. They bring blood flow to the genitals, enhance sensation and intensity of orgasm, and keep the entire urogenital area healthy and supported, especially during pregnancy or as you age. I’ll be talking about pelvic exercises in another video, so stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, I hope that I’ve convinced you that exercise is not just about losing weight or looking good; that it’s not really about unpleasant work, but in fact, it’s about your sexual pleasure. So next time you think that dragging your bottom off the couch to go to the gym is a little bit more than you feel like you want to do, it might help to remember that exercising can, quite literally, be an orgasmic experience.