Add this to the list of reasons you should think about upping your exercise game: New research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that fairly rigorous exercise could help you maintain a healthy sex life.

This new study looked at over 6,000 cyclists, runners, and swimmers and categorized them by how often and how hard they worked out each week. The researchers compared the athletes’ weekly physical activity to their reported sexual functioning, looking specifically at the men’s experiences of erectile dysfunction and the women’s experiences of sexual dysfunction, orgasm satisfaction, and arousal.

Overall, the researchers found that the more frequently and more vigorously a person exercised per week, the lower their odds of any sort of sexual dysfunction. That is, more exercise equated to healthier sexual functioning.

A few specifics: 

  • Men who ran for 4.5 hours per week at 8.6 miles per hour (that’s roughly a 7-minute mile pace) were 23% less likely to deal with ED, CBS 6 reports. Women who ran the same pace for four hours a week were 30% less likely to deal with sexual dysfunction. 
  • Men who cycled about 10 hours per week at about 16 miles per hour were 22% less likely to deal with ED than men who cycled for only two hours a week. But even for those who cycled way less than those 10 weekly hours, every increase in time spent on the saddle yielded improved sexual functioning. As Bicycling reports, the benefits were most notable “when they reached the point where they were burning more than about 4,000 calories a week, or the equivalent of about six to seven hours of moderate cycling.”
  • Women reported more satisfying orgasms and an easier time getting aroused with each increase in time spent cycling, especially once they “reached levels above the equivalent of about 5.5 hours per week of moderate cycling.”

Why might exercise improve sexual functioning? A lot of it has to do with better blood flow to your sexual organs. Better blood flow means it’s easier for a penis to get erect and for a clitoris and labia to become engorged (which, if you’re not familiar, is key to arousal and orgasms for people with vaginas).

The researchers also point out that exercise, of course, promotes good cardiovascular health and prevents all kinds of negative health conditions like diabetes, depression, hypertension, and obesity, all of which can increase men’s risk of ED. “Exercise may improve sexual function in men by simply reducing the influence of these medical comorbidities,” the researchers write in the paper on their findings. 

Among people with vaginas, physical activity can also strengthen and improve your pelvic floor muscles, which much research shows is linked to better sexual function.

So if you’re looking to help your body have easy access to sexual pleasure, consider prioritizing that healthy weekly exercise regimen. Here are a few ideas for libido-boosting workouts. (Bonus? More-athletic women also tend to have more sexual partners.)

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