- Being physically active is key to maintaining cardiovascular health, essential for healthy erectile function
- Improved stamina and body-strength — and the right hormonal balance — will aid your overall wellbeing and possibly your sex life to boot
Can your gym routine really make you more versatile in the bedroom? Short answer: yes, but not in the way you might expect.
Sure, we’ve all seen – or maybe tried – the occasional sexual position that combines the agility of a gymnast with the lower-back strength of a world-class weightlifter, but let’s be honest: you could spend the rest of your life using nothing but the classics and still be perfectly happy.
More important for the average human is overall wellbeing: staying healthy, happy and hormonally on-point, so that there’s nothing holding you back when it’s time to hit the sack.
Balancing resistance training and cardio is the way to better sex
Any good exercise regime will include a balance of resistance training and cardio, both of which come with a variety of benefits for anyone interested in better sex.
Strength training, for instance, causes the body to produce testosterone, which is the primary precursor for the male sex drive. And with low T-levels thought to be a cause of ED it makes sense to keep them in check.
Research has shown that improvement in sleep quality also leads to an increase in T-levels. Exercise is usually attributed with improved sleep quality so this causes a very beneficial relationship to occur.
Aerobic exercise, meanwhile, has been linked to improved erections in a review of five different studies due to its beneficial effects on blood flow and various other biomarkers of cardiovascular health.
“Improved fitness levels also does wonders for body image and how a man feels about himself. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on anxiety, help to contribute to confidence and abate performance issues,” says Doug Tannahill, Osteopath and Strength and Conditioning coach at CHHP Harley Street and BXR London.
So what should you focus on? Fortunately for the easily-bored, you’ve got plenty of options...
1. Lunge and press
Concentrating on bigger, multi-joint (compound) exercises increase the amount of muscle mass recruited and as result, a more significant impact on T and GH levels. These types of exercises should form the core of most gym routines if looking to have a good hormonal profile impact as a goal.
Barbells are all very well, but you’re unlikely to take them into the bedroom – and learning to move your own bodyweight efficiently is one of the best ways to combine resistance training and (mild) cardio with coordination and mobility.
It’s possible to make excellent gains with nothing but standard press-ups, lunges and mountain climbers: try 5-10 sets of 4-8 press-ups and 6-12 lunges (each leg) for a go-anywhere circuit that’ll get your blood pumping.
Interestingly, testosterone levels are highest during the AM and then decrease throughout the day. It has been shown that training in the PM can therefore have the most pronounced effect on T-levels.
High-Intensity Interval Training hits the spot for efficient endorphin release – according to recent research from the University of Turku – which means that, as well as burning fat, it can boost your sense of well-being, improving your libido.
The right ratio of work to rest depends on your other goals – longer exercise intervals will build endurance, while shorter ones will tend to improve power – but anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds of all-out exercise with 20 to 60 seconds of rest in between sets is the sweet spot. Aim for 6-10 intervals, and stick to exercises that are easy to do even when you’re tired – spin-bike intervals are ideal, box jumps much less so.
3. Get swinging (with a kettlebell)
Unleashing the bells has more than one benefit for better sex - and since they’re simple enough to keep in a corner (or use as a doorstop), they can be an excellent solution for at-home training.
Firstly, they’re ideal for the sort of fast-paced, full-body workouts that aid fat loss: and at least one study found that losing a moderate amount of weight was enough to reduce erectile dysfunction in men classified as ‘obese’.
Secondly, they’re a great way to build muscular endurance in the hips and glutes – two areas where it never hurts to have some staying power. Thirdly, working out with them is fast, and simple: do 5 sets of 10 swings and 10 goblet squats, and you’re done for the day.
4. Work your butterfly (or backstroke)
Swimming is low-impact, less likely to jack up your levels of the stress hormone cortisol than endless running, and - in a study of older athletes – was correlated with more frequent, satisfying sex. It’s also a full-body resistance workout, making it ideal for (moderate) strength gains and fat loss – and if the water’s cold enough, might even boost testosterone. The low impact nature of swimming means that it can be also be used as a good ‘active recovery’ tool on ‘off days’ that allow you to recover and get back to the weight room fresh.
5. Lift with a partner
If your partner’s already regular exerciser, it’s probably worth tagging along with them when they head to the gym/track/road – one study suggests that couples who engage in physical challenges together feel more satisfied with their relationships afterwards, while another suggests that if you’re running, rowing or lifting in synchronisation, you’ll benefit by feeling closer to them. Since other research suggests that relationship satisfaction plays a role in the treatment of ED, it all helps.
"Working out with another male friend could improve motivation. Pushing each other and being accountable for training with each other may help you to workout more intensely and stick to your workout programme even when you don't feel up to it," says Tannahill.
6. …or just go for a stroll at lunchtime
Not all exercise needs to be strenuous, and even a little helps. According to one 2003 review, sedentary men might significantly lower their risk of erectile dysfunction by burning at least 200 calories per day – that’s roughly equal to fast-walking for about two miles, or a decent lunchtime stroll. If you can, go somewhere green - walking in nature reduces stress, which has a host of beneficial effects.
The bottom line
Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and strength exercises on two or more days. Regular exercise is key to overall good health, and may help improve your sex life too.
“Whatever the choice, the important factor is to keep the sessions regular in dosing in order to create a lasting change. Although single bouts of exercise can create acute physiological changes in your body, sustained repeated bouts of stimulus result in longer term adaptations which ultimately improve your health for the long run,” says Tannahill.