Our sex drive, or libido, is a measure of how much you desire sex. It’s a complicated assessment because a ton of factors play into it. It’s influenced by psychology, physiology, and our emotions in complex ways that we don’t fully understand.
With that said, for almost everybody, as long as you’re not overtrained, working out does increase sex drive.
However, the type, amount, and context of the exercise, as well as the individual, matters a lot for this. Remember, libido is a complicated term to assess in an objective way, but here’s an overview of what we know about how working out increases sex drive.
There are several factors at play that intersect exercise and libido. Here are the biggest and the strongest links.
We know that specifically resistance training increases testosterone. We also know that testosterone increases sex drive. In fact, it’s one of the principal hormones responsible for our sex drive.
We could go into this in-depth, but that would be a whole separate article. If you’re trying to increase your testosterone and sex drive, then lift weights 2-4 days per week, ideally focusing on major movements and muscle groups.
A squat or a deadlift will generate more of a testosterone-boosting effect than a bicep curl.
Working Out Decreases Stress
Working out, in the right doses, decreases stress over the long term. In the short term, it floods our body with sympathetic, “fight or flight” hormones that boost our alertness and ability to train. In the long term, consistent training decreases our stress, which primes us for the ideal hormonal environment for a high sex drive.
Decreasing our stress also primes us emotionally for a higher libido. If we feel good, we’re more likely to have the space and attention to desire sex.
While the focus on libido increases tends to be on testosterone, there’s another mechanism at play, and that’s the increase of blood flow.
Those with poor blood flow have a host of health problems, including lower arousal. Arousal requires an increase of blood flow to our genitals. (A thousand jokes have already but made about this, so please don’t be lame and make another one.)
That’s partially why some research shows aerobic exercise and even walking, likely increase libido. One Harvard study, for example, showed that 30 minutes of walking a day led to a 40% decreased risk in erectile dysfunction in men.
A forth factor comes from the short term: within a few hours after working out, humans have the perfect mix of hormones to increase our desire. We have boosted testosterone, as well as endorphins and adrenaline. For example, one study found that women become more aroused after training because of sympathetic nervous system activation.
In general, weight training. That has the strongest link, especially when we’re talking about healthy populations. Exercise like walking will generally increase everybody’s blood flow, which as we talked about improves sexual function and arousal.
However, for other populations, other types of training have shown benefits.
In a study on men undergoing androgen suppression therapy for prostate treatment (which decreases testosterone and other hormones), those in an aerobic + resistance training group maintained sexual desire and activity, compared to a sedentary group. But that doesn’t give us a ton of insight into aerobic exercise specifically.
Another study on sedentary men found that aerobic exercise on its own improved libido. This was 60 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week, of 75-80% of aerobic capacity. In other words, traditional cardio.
Because they were sedentary, they likely increased blood flow and burned fat (which increases testosterone). If you take people who do nothing, and have them do something, most of their health markers will improve.
On the other hand, this often-cited study showed that people who did excessive amounts of endurance training saw a decrease in libido. Many media outlets have used this as evidence for clickbait headlines such as “cardio may ruin your sex life” or something hyperbolic like that.
But that’s because participants were overtrained. Not necessarily because of the cardio.
So cardio, in the right doses is NOT bad for your libido. In fact, most longevity and health research shows the importance of cardio for long-term health. You just shouldn’t overdo it and you should also do resistance training.
If you’re overtraining, or not recovering (eating like crap, not sleeping well, stressed all the time) obviously your sex drive will go to the floor.
In this case, you will need to either decrease your training volume, or increase what you’re doing for recovery.
For example, if you’re training a modest amount, but sleeping like crap, then check out some of our articles on how to improve your sleep.
On the other hand, if you’re running for hours a day, and not sure why you’re not excited to have sex, you should probably just stop running so much.
For a better indicator of this, if you have a wearable device, you should look at your heart rate variability score. HRV pulled from your sleep assesses your overall recovery.
The reasons for this are a bit complex, so you can learn more from this article on HRV and recovery.
Look, it’s really that simple. And exercise too much is bad for you. So that’s going to show up in your sex drive, too.
Developing a consistent training routine, that includes both resistance training and some form of cardio training, will improve how you look, feel, and yes, how you fuck.
For more on sex drive, check out our article on 10 easy ways to increase your sex drive.