Does Working Out Increase Your Sex Drive? 6 Ways It Can!

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The benefits of exercise are numerous, ranging from improving cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart and lungs and burning calories to facilitate weight loss to decreasing stress and the risk of many lifestyle diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and certain types of cancers.

Often missing in the frequently discussed benefits of exercise is the potential effects of exercise on libido.

But, does working out increase your sex drive? Can exercise increase sexual performance?

Unless you specifically seek out to answer the question, “Does working out increase libido?” it is not a benefit of exercise that is spouted off as readily in everyday conversations. Is that because there’s no association between exercise and sex drive or because it is a less comfortable topic to discuss openly?

In this guide, we will look at the evidence surrounding the effects of working out on libido and sexual performance to see if this is indeed a benefit of exercise we can all add to our own knowledge banks when we need extra motivation to work out, even if it is not an exercise benefit we readily volunteer in daily conversations.

We will cover: 

  • Does Working Out Increase Your Sex Drive?
  • How Does Exercise Improve Sex Drive and Sexual Performance?

Let’s dive in! 

Two people cuddling and smiling in bed.

Does Working Out Increase Your Sex Drive? 

Ok, so let’s get into it. Does working out increase libido? There are many reasons to believe that working out can increase your sex drive.

Exercise improves physical health and mood, both of which can support a healthy sex drive and sexual performance.

There are also effects of exercise that may specifically improve sexual function and libido.

Any type of physical activity gets your heart pumping, which increases circulation to the tissues of the body, including the genitalia. Good circulation is needed to maintain an erection for men and to engorge the female genitalia to prepare for enjoyable sex.

Working out can also make your body more flexible and limber, which can help you physically yield into different sexual positions with ease.

Exercise can also strengthen the muscles and increase mobility in your joints, both of which can again afford a greater variety of sexual positions you can try.

Another potential way in which working out can improve sexual performance is by building your aerobic endurance, which can improve your stamina.

Indeed, research suggests that working out may improve your sex life.

A person running up a hill.

How Does Exercise Improve Sex Drive and Sexual Performance?

Sex life is a general term we use to describe our intimate relationships with others and ourselves, encompassing both our libido or sex drive, as well as our arousal and sexual performance.

Working out can improve your sex life by addressing physical or mental aspects that affect one or both of these factors. 

The following are evidence-based ways in which working out can increase libido and/or sexual performance:

#1: Working Out May Reduce Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction can include things such as difficulty with arousal in women, difficulty attaining or maintaining an erection in men, premature ejaculation, dissatisfaction with orgasm in general, or the inability to orgasm.

Evidence suggests that exercise might decrease the incidence of sexual dysfunction in both men and women.

A large study with over 6,000 men and women found that those who had higher levels of weekly cardio exercise reported lower levels of sexual dysfunction, while those who did less weekly aerobic exercise reported higher levels of sexual dysfunction.

A person lifting a barbell at the gym.

#2: Working Out Can Improve Body Image

Let’s face it: no one feels particularly excited to strip down in front of their lover if they feel insecure about their body.

If you are feeling fat, not toned, or generally self-conscious about your physique, that can have a significant negative impact on your sex drive.

One of the benefits of working out consistently is that it can improve body image and body confidence. 

Not only does consistent exercise afford favorable changes in body composition, such as a reduction in body fat and an increase in muscle definition and muscle size, but even just the act of habitually exercising—in the absence of significant body recomposition—can lead to greater body confidence and comfort in your physique.

The more confident you feel in your body, the more likely you will feel the desire to get naked and be intimate with another person.

In fact, studies suggest that for women, in particular, there is a strong association between body image and libido. Women with a positive body image report having a stronger sexual desire than women with a negative body image.

Furthermore, the research suggested that women who were satisfied with their body shape had improved sexual function as well, perhaps going to the fact that if you feel good in your own skin, you can relax and immerse yourself in the sexual experience, allowing the natural hormonal and physical arousal mechanisms to take over for better sexual function. 

A person on the bench press.

Although the research surrounding the effects of body image and libido and sexual performance in men is rather sparse, there is some evidence to suggest that men who harbor negative attitudes about their level of attractiveness or body image experience higher levels of sexual dissatisfaction and adverse sexual performance experiences. 

Improving your own perception of your attractiveness, which is essentially encompassed by the concept of positive body image, can be a great way to increase your sex drive and, potentially, sexual performance.

Following a fitness routine that helps you achieve your body composition goals—whether that is to lose fat and lean out or bulk up and build muscle—can be a great way to increase body confidence.

However, keep in mind that even if you aren’t seeing dramatic changes in the mirror right away, many people find the mere act of committing to exercising most days of the week helps build self-confidence and body confidence.

For example, one study of young adult women demonstrated that just a single 30-minute exercise session can improve body image.

Exercise can feel empowering, but it is important to keep in mind that you should maintain a healthy attitude towards exercise and not obsess over your physical physique or punish your physical body through excessive working out if your body shape does not reflect how you would like to feel. 

Work with a doctor, personal trainer, and nutritionist, if necessary, to find the right diet and exercise program to support your health and fitness goals.

A person working out on the cable machine.

#3: Working Out May Reduce Erectile Dysfunction

One of the most common sexual performance problems for men is erectile dysfunction (ED), which is often caused by circulatory problems.

High blood pressure, occluded arteries, and reduced blood flow due to poor arterial health, increased arterial stiffness, or insulin resistance can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction in men.

According to the American Urological Association, a lack of exercise can be a risk factor for ED, and aerobic exercise is usually recommended for men with ED as a way to combat the symptoms.

#4: Working Out May Increase Arousal 

Exercise can increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the secretion of certain hormones, such as testosterone, both benefits which can help increase arousal. 

Testosterone is commonly known as the primary male sex hormone, responsible for secondary sex characteristics like pubic hair, lowered voice, and facial hair, and for increasing libido and producing sperm.

A person does a workout on a stationary bike.

However, although testosterone is considered the male sex hormone, both biological sexes produce testosterone to some degree, though in the absence of hormonal problems, biological males have significantly higher testosterone levels than biological females.

Studies suggest that a single bout of exercise can increase physiological sexual arousal in women, and the effects are probably similar—if not more significant—in men due to the higher levels of testosterone.

Strength training is well known to increase testosterone levels, as testosterone production seems to increase acutely in response to resistance training. These benefits seem to extend to chronic strength training as well. Furthermore, testosterone seems to increase most significantly when rest periods after sets are short, as long as the work sets are high-intensity.

While lifting weights is particularly associated with boosting testosterone levels, evidence suggests that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) running workouts increase testosterone levels as well. 

#5: Working Out Can Prevent Joint Pain 

Studies suggest that joint pain is often cited as a primary issue with maintaining sexuality in older adults, and exercise can help decrease arthritis pain and keep joints healthy.

A person does a workout with battle ropes.

#6: Working Out Can Strengthen the Pelvic Floor

Core exercises can strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which can help increase the intensity of orgasms.

Additionally, pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with poor sexual performance and sexual discomfort.

Overall, it seems that working out can increase libido and sexual performance, giving us just another great reason to get our workouts in!

Are you looking to get started on those workouts? If you would like to get going right away with some of those HIIT running workouts we mentioned, we have some just for you.

A person does a push-up.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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