You thankfully don't have to be an athlete to have good sex, but if you’re trying to up your game between the sheets, regular exercise might just do the trick. According to one Harvard study, researchers found that swimmers in their 60s reported sex lives similar to those in their 40s. In another study, Finnish researchers found that women in their forties who engaged in strenuous exercise reported better orgasms than those who didn't.
But exercise doesn't just guarantee better sex when you’re older. Researchers at the University of Texas in the US got female study participants to watch a short erotic film. When they cycled for 20 minutes immediately prior to watching the film, they were 169% more aroused than when they didn't cycle. The reason? Cardiovascular exercise boosts blood flow, including to the nether regions.
The same applies to the male of the species. Duke University Medical Centre in the US presented a study at the 2010 meeting of the Urological Association that found that men who were moderately active – a 30-minute brisk walk four times a week – were two-thirds less likely to experience sexual dysfunction that those who weren't.
However, you probably didn't need a bunch of studies to convince you that being in better shape results in better sex. Not only will you feel more confident and sexy, you'll also be able to experiment with more adventurous positions. We chatted to sports scientist and personal trainer Meagan Claasen of Stature gym (www.stature.fit) in Cape Town about the best exercise to do to boost your sex life.
Start strength training
When it comes to strengthening specific areas of the body, Claasen suggests the core, abdominals, glutes and shoulders for men, and inner and outer thighs, glutes, hamstrings and core for women. She says that both men and women can incorporate these exercises into their training programmes:
- Hamstrings: Deadlifts or hamstring curls.
- Core: Planks – aim to hold each position (five reps middle, five reps left side, five reps right side) for 45 seconds, with a 15 second rest in between each plank.
- Abdominals: Crunches and sit-ups are always great. If done correctly, leg lifts are fantastic as they work both the abdominals and the core muscles.
- Glutes: Squats and walking lunges.
- Inner and outer thighs: Most gyms have two specific machines (adductor and abductor) that target these two muscle groups.
- Shoulders: Shoulder press is ideal for strengthening the shoulders and for definition.
Try Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises are fantastic for both females and males, says Claasen. “They’re used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which then increases sexual function in both men and women. These exercises increase blood flow to the area, which helps men maintain erections and increases sensitivity in women. Practising Kegels is relatively easy as it's just a squeezing action – as if you’re holding in your urine when running to the bathroom."
To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream – however, don’t do Kegels while urinating. To perfect your technique and to tighten these muscles, hold this contraction for three seconds and then relax for three seconds. You can repeat this about 10 times in one session and do it two to three times a day. Add one second each week until you’re able to squeeze for 10 seconds each time.
When it comes to sex, supple is better, which is why Claasen recommends targeting your hamstrings, glutes and lower back area to improve your flexibility. If yoga isn't your thing, you can try these simple stretches at home every morning. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
- Touch your toes: Stand with your feet slightly apart and your knees straight but not locked. Gently roll down and try touch your toes but don’t strain. Depending on how stiff you are, you should be able to touch your toes by the end of week one or two.
- The figure-of-four stretch: Lie on your back with both knees in the air. Place your right foot on your left knee to create a figure-of-four shape. Then clasp your hands behind your left knee and pull forward gently.
- The shell stretch: Position yourself on all fours so that your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips are over your knees. Pull your belly button up into your back and sit back with your bum as close to your ankles and feet as possible. Stretch forward with your hands to increase the stretch.
A good sex session can help you burn between 600 and 1000 kilojoules, says Claasen. To increase your fitness – for longer, more vigorous sessions – Claasen recommends high intensity interval training, sprints, and anything that includes bouts of fast-paced exercise followed by rest.
"I think any form of exercise will help improve your endurance during sex. However, I believe that practice makes perfect, so just like most sports, the more you have sex, the fitter you become!" concludes Claasen.
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