Just 20 Minutes Of Exercise Will Make You Want Sex, Says Science

Gotta try it. Your sex drive will thank you.

woman working out Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Would you do a twenty-minute workout if you knew it would dramatically improve your sexual desire? Break out your gym clothes, because some breakthrough studies have shown that an exercise that I call "20/70" makes women locked, cocked, and ready to rock.

RELATED: Why Natural Remedies Won't Help Your Libido, And What Will

This promising treatment started when a team of researchers led by Dr. Cindy Meston at the University of Texas at Austin discovered, almost by accident, that a specific type of exercise can significantly increase sexual desire even in women with low libido.


How They Tested It

They outfitted test subjects with a vaginal photoplethysmograph (VPG), a tampon-shaped device that illuminates the capillary bed of the vaginal wall and the blood circulating within it.

As the amount of blood in the vaginal tissue increases, more light is reflected into the device. VPG is widely used to measure genital sexual arousal.

Test subjects were divided into an exercise and no-exercise group. The exercise group spent twenty minutes on a stationary bike pedaling at 70 percent of their maximum heart rate. Both groups were then shown an erotic film.

As you’d expect, both the exercise and non-exercise groups experienced an increase in sexual arousal during the film, characterized by increased genital blood flow, clitoral erection, and increased lubrication.


But it was in the exercise group that the VPGs lit up like Christmas trees. The women who exercised had significantly, sometimes dramatically, higher levels of sexual arousal than women who did not, even though they watched the same erotic film.

What It Means

Now, the natural inclination is to conclude that exercise causes sexual arousal. Not true. Exercise sets the stage for it. Without an erotic stimulus, there is no sexual arousal. A 20-minute workout at 70 percent of your heart rate is not going to make you yell, "Take me like a vitamin!"  

RELATED: Low Libido? Here's The #1 Tip From A Sex Therapist To Help

You have to follow it with an erotic stimulus.


What's An Erotic Stimulus?

It's a fancy-schmancy word for a turn-on. For example, porn, and erotic film (like "9 1/2 Weeks"), your man's cologne, watching The Rock walk down the hall —  it's anything that makes you think and feel "I need to take care of business!"

Here’s the fascinating part. Exercise, without viewing the erotic film, lit up the VPGs, signaling significant changes in genital blood flow. But when test subjects were asked if they felt sexually aroused, the answer was "no".

Dr. Meston noted that exercise can physiologically prepare your body for sexual activity, but you still need an erotic stimulus, a psychological cue that activates the subjective experience of arousal. In other words, exercise sets the table, but erotic stimuli serve the food.

Does The Exercise Have To Be On A Stationary Bike?

No. The type of exercise doesn't matter —  running, biking, swimming, aerobics —  as long as you hit the target heart rate.


By the way, getting your heart rate up to that 70 percent doesn't mean you have to put yourself through a torturous workout. You should still be able to talk (with some effort) while doing the exercise.

What makes this study especially significant is that it’s been replicated over and over with the same results across different groups of women, even with women taking antidepressants.

Especially notable is a study on women who. That study represented the first empirical evidence that women with low libido can be sexually aroused through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

RELATED: 5 Tricks For Using The 'Love Languages' To Rev Up Your Sex Life


Again, it’s easy to misinterpret these studies and think that the "20/70 exercise" (20 minutes at 70 percent of your heart rate) increases sexual arousal. It does not. Exercise followed by an erotic stimulus creates arousal.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a woman suffering from low libido (or just want to enhance a normal sex drive) do this before you have sex:

  • Exercise for 20 minutes at 70 percent of your heart rate.  
  • Engage a sexual cue: Watch an erotic film, sniff your favorite cologne or do whatever it is that typically sets the stage for your arousal.
  • Get ready to rock your man. Even better, get ready to WANT to rock your man.

Micahel Alvear co-hosted HBO's Sex Inspectors, the first sex makeover series on television. He writes an occasional sex advice column for the Huffington Post.