Advertisements tell us that breast implants and lingerie will make us look sexy, and exclusive perfumes will make us smell sexy. We're told that men can take little pills and women can attend sex toy parties to spice up their sex lives. Is there truth in advertising?
For those in long-term relationships, when the honeymoon is over, sex often becomes stale or takes a backseat to stress caused by busy family schedules. For many women, sexual enjoyment and orgasm are elusive due to feelings of inadequacy or emotional repression. For the older generation, sex may become physically difficult due to aging joints, aches and pains, and age-related genital changes.
No matter what the reason, sex can be less than fulfilling for many. Instead of seeking sexual solace in cosmetic enhancements and quick-fix consumer products, try improving your fitness. Beginning an exercise program or expanding your fitness routine will not only benefit your overall health but also your sex life.
Self-conscious about those extra pounds? You don’t have to look like a supermodel to be sexy. No matter your body type or fitness level, exercise can increase your body awareness, helping you become more comfortable with the skin you're in and boosting self-confidence that overflows into the bedroom.
Stressing out about grocery lists and work meetings during sex? Regular exercise can relieve stress and improve mood, so you can leave stress and anxiety outside the bedroom door.
Too tired or too achy at the end of the day for sex? Adding gentle exercise to your daily routine can reduce fatigue and those minor aches and pains, leaving you to devote some energy to enjoy sex.
While any well-balanced exercise program can improve your sex life, adding certain exercises that focus on core strength and flexibility and mind/body awareness and exercising with your partner can really provide benefits in the bedroom:
Strengthen your core with Pilates. The “powerhouse”—the term coined by Joseph H. Pilates—refers to the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles that are emphasized in Pilates workouts. Gaining more control and strength in the pelvic floor muscles improves support of the sexual organs and can enhance orgasm. Pilates also increases flexibility through the legs and spine, which can alleviate back and joint pain that may interfere with sexual enjoyment.
Add yoga to your weekly workouts. Practicing yoga not only increases strength and flexibility but also helps calm the mind and relieve stress through the combination of breathing and poses. Many yoga poses open the hips and lengthen the spine, two anatomic areas that get a workout during sex.
The Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian guide to love, sex, marriage, and relationships, depicts some sexual positions that actually resemble yoga poses. In fact, yoga’s sexual benefits have led some yoga studios and instructors to introduce classes that advertise “better sex through yoga” and teach students poses that specifically relate to improving sexual performance and enjoyment. Some studios have gone even further, offering more sensual classes such as tantric partner yoga.
The stronger, more flexible body resulting from yoga and Pilates can lead to the ability to engage in more creative sexual positions. And both yoga and Pilates also promote mind/body awareness. Becoming more attuned to your body and its movements heightens the senses and the ability to feel more sensations during sexual activity.
Motivate your man to exercise. Helping your partner improve his fitness can enrich your sex life together. And for men who lack the motivation to exercise just to be healthier, boosting sexual performance may provide just the right motivation to get him moving, according to Andy Troy, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and personal trainer in New York City.
Troy, who also holds degrees in counseling and psychology, created The Bedroom Workout for Men. Troy focuses on functional exercise—improving sports performance or daily physical activities such as lifting groceries or children. “My business is to take a sport or any physical activity and figure out a way to optimize your body’s conditioning so you can perform that activity most effectively: This is precisely what I do in this workout with every man’s favorite contact sport—sex!” he says.
Exercise is neglected as a way to improve sexual performance in men, Troy notes. E-mail spam and advertising make unrealistic promises to turn men into sex machines overnight with drugs or other products. “A primary cause of erectile dysfunction is reduced blood flow. Exercise improves circulation and is a healthier, natural alternative to Viagra. Fitness plays a big role in addressing the problems that Viagra is artificially trying to treat,” says Troy.
His exercise program provides an overall strength, endurance, and flexibility workout, with exercises modified to enhance muscular movements specific to sex. “Certain strength training exercises can help with the physical demands placed on the body during sex,” Troy says. “The Bedroom Workout for Men includes traditional exercises such as squats, push-ups, and bench presses that are modified to meet the strength and endurance required during sex."
Liven up your workouts with dance-based exercise. Shaking your hips in a Latin aerobics or swing dancing class not only burns calories but can also make you feel sexier. And ballroom dancing or salsa dancing with your partner may set the mood for activities off the dance floor. Remember, the waltz was once banned for its closeness between partners and sexual suggestiveness!
Another fun, dance-based exercise alternative is belly dancing. “People who would not exercise normally do belly dancing because it’s fun,” says Troy, also a fitness consultant to The Ultimate Bellydance Fitness Workout and the Bellydance for Body Shaping DVD series. “Moving your body in such a way can help you feel sexy. Repressed sexuality, especially in women, is common in the United States. Belly dancing can help women get in touch with their bodies and their sexuality,” he explains.
"Women need to move their bodies to learn about how they can move when being sensual. For most women, improving their sex lives comes from having a stronger inner confidence about their bodies.” says Tricia Murphy, CEO and president of Urban Striptease Aerobics and Urban Fitness and creator of the Urban Striptease workout. While the striptease name may be misleading, this is no “how to become a stripper” workout. Murphy is an experienced dancer with classical training in ballet, modern and jazz dance, and hip hop, as well as a certified fitness instructor in yoga, kickboxing, and indoor cycling.
Urban Striptease weaves basic striptease dance moves into aerobic choreography for a fun, energizing, feel-good workout. "Women who try these classes or the in-home DVD find out quickly that any body looks sexy when it moves. They begin to forget the judgments they pass on themselves and realize how sexy they are, just as they are," Murphy says. And, even if you never take these new moves into the bedroom, your sex life will benefit from heightened body awareness, sensuality, and self-confidence.
Exercise together. Try finding a sport or exercise activity that you both enjoy. Participating in a mutually enjoyable physical activity will encourage better communication and emotional connection. And mate-attracting pheromones released in sweat and feel-good endorphins released in the brain during exercise will enhance your attraction to each other. The couple that sweats together, stays together!
- Jennifer Van Pelt, MA