No matter how toe-curling amazing it is, we all want better sex (or are we wrong?)—and the secret to it may be something your mom does.
Don’t get all skeeved out—we’re not taking a peek into your parents’ bedroom. We’re talking about kegels, those exercises menopausal women do to control their bladder and rev up their sex lives. Those same moves can help women of any age have the best sex of their life (as Lindsay Funke knows).
And they’re not the only type of “workout” that helps down there. “Sexual activity is an entire body experience, so it is important to keep your muscles, blood vessels, and nerves performing at peak levels,” says Tina M. Penhollow, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of exercise science and health promotion at Florida Atlantic University.
Exercise sessions lead to increased blood flow, which bring out quicker feelings of arousal and stronger orgasms, explains Ellen Barnard, a sex educator, counselor, and co-owner of A Woman's Touch Sexuality Resource Center. “All of this can be interpreted as better sex if you are seeking to intensify or improve your physical experience of sex,” she says.
And really: Aren't we all? Try these four types of exercise and see what they can do for your sex life.
Chances are you’ve heard of kegels—and aren’t exactly sure what they are. The exercise strengthens the all-important muscles that surround the urethra, vagina, anus, middle of the vaginal walls, and base of the bladder and cervix—in essence, the ones that matter when sex is on the table. “These muscles contract and relax during orgasm, so the stronger and more flexible they are, the bigger the muscle movements are, and the more powerfully pleasurable an orgasm will feel,” Barnard says.
And for women who have yet to hit their peak, kegels may be the answer. What some ladies see as an utter inability to climax could actually just be weak pelvic floor muscles preventing them from feeling the effects, Barnard adds.
Best of all, you can do them anywhere—without anyone knowing. To make sure you perform them correctly, next time you’re in the bathroom, start to pee and then stop. This will help you I.D. the pelvic floor muscles so you’re sure that you’re working those rather than your glutes.
Then anytime you decide to squeeze in a “workout,” tighten those same muscles for five seconds. Release for five seconds, and repeat the move 10 times about three times a day.
Some yoga positions can feel a bit sexual—in a very awkward way (can you say downward-facing dog?). And that yoga practice just might lead to a more satisfying sex life. “Some poses help women relax their hips so that they can enjoy a wider variety of sex positions,” Barnard says. So keep doing those low lunges and pigeon poses.
Or take horse pose: The deep squat builds pelvic floor muscle strength, Barnard says, which will help keep them engaged when you leave the mat and crawl between the sheets.
Increased flexibility and stronger down-there muscles aside, yoga in general enhances sexual function, helping increase desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction while decreasing pain Yoga in Female Sexual Functions. Dhikav, V., Karmarkar, G., Gupta, R., et al. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2010 Feb;7(2 Pt 2):964-70. . Now that’s encouragement to practice more often.
Standard heart-pumping exercises help lead to better sex because cardiovascular work boosts blood flow and keeps blood vessels in top shape. Throw in increased heart rate, breathing, and muscle activity, and the key to enhancing sexual satisfaction is within reach, Penhollow says.
Sexual pleasure for women is dependent on healthy blood flow in and out of the very small blood vessels in the clitoris and the vaginal walls Anatomy and Physiology of Sexuality. Cour, F., Droupy, S. Faix, A., et al. Progres en Urologie. 2013 Jul;23(9):547-61. , Barnard explains. Exercising regularly keeps the vessels in top shape so they can easily fill with blood during foreplay. The result? More intense nerve responses down there, helping you become aroused more easily and giving the natural lubrication process the green light, Barnard says.
Don’t take this as news that daily hour-long runs are a requisite to upgrading your sex life. Though 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercises a day is recommended for a healthy heart and healthy blood vessels, any cardio burst helps, Barnard explains. “Anything that makes your heart healthy will also make your genitals healthier,” she says. Just make sure you’re working out for at least 10 minutes at a time, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
4. Strength Training
Lifting iron boosts testosterone production The Effect of 12 Weeks of Resistance Training on Hormones of Bone Formation in Young Sedentary Women. Moghadasi, M., Siavashpour, S., European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2013 Jan;113(1):25-32.
. For women, that doesn’t mean transforming into a bodybuilder, but it may impact your sex drive, though how exactly it does that is unclear at this time Testosterone and Healthy Sex Drive in Women and Men. Van anders, S.M. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2012 Dec;41(6):1471-84.
Is There a Correlation Between Androgens and Sexual Desire in Women? Wahlin-Jacobsen, S., Pedersen, A.T., Kristensen, E., et al. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2015 Feb;12(2):358-73. .
Hormones aside, resistance training can have similar blood-flowing effects as a cardio sessions, helping our hearts and our genitals, Barnard says.
It’s no secret that exercise is good, but knowing it has the power to boost satisfaction in the bedroom could be extra motivation to (finally) commit to working out in the morning or sign up for that race. Taking a well-rounded approach to fitness helps keep our sex lives at their peak and could help us reach our peak (ahem) more easily. And don’t forget that kegels aren’t just for the menopausal set and should be part of your daily workout routine too. (But do forget thinking about your mom having you-know-what. Ew.)