Working out and sex have a lot in common: You're sweaty, your blood is pumping, you get a mood boost, your body feels amazing...need we go on? Get sweaty with bae, then hop in the shower together, and you'll have a perfect segue into sexytime. But it's not just convenient—science shows that there are quite a few perks to post-workout nooky.
1. Your workout high will keep on coming.
Yeah... pun intended. Any fitness addict is kind of crazy for that workout high that comes from a sweat sesh—why else would you love working out so much? That workout high is essentially surging levels of norepinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, endorphins, and anandamide, as we reported in The Science of the Runner's High. Guess what goes sky-high after a sexy romp? Yep—those same endorphins and dopamine, but with the addition of oxytocin, a pituitary hormone that's basically the ultimate feel-good love chemical, says Prudence Hall, M.D., founder of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, CA. Adding oxytocin to the cocktail of hormones already happening is like putting the icing on the happy cake.
Oxytocin is largely released during orgasm and any nipple play, but also surges at the presence of any sexual stimulation—meaning you don't need to reach the big O to get its benefits, says Hall. It leaves you with a sense of calmness, happiness, and connection with your partner that all lasts four to five hours—aka the perfect follow-up to a workout high that can disappear much more quickly. (And this is just one way to make your workout high last longer.)
2. Your libido will go through the roof.
Get ready for your mind to be blown: Exercise increases blood flow, including to your sexual organs. Blood flow to your lady parts means increased sexual response, says Kim Vandegeest-Wallace, Ph.D., psychologist and sex therapist for the University of Kansas Health System. And it's for this reason that many women report reaching orgasm more easily after a workout, she says. Talk about a win-win.
But blood flow isn't the only reason sweating boosts your libido. Exercise—especially strength training—is a surefire way to kick testosterone (the hormone responsible for both your sex drive and muscle growth) into high gear. Yup, this is exactly why strength training is the best workout to boost your sex drive, and the optimal time to utilize that high testosterone level is within an hour of your workout.
3. You won't be so hangry.
Oxytocin—which you already know comes in buckets with sexual activity—is "one of the greatest anti-addiction hormones that we make," says Hall. That means whatever your vice, whether it's smoking, alcohol, or sugar, oxytocin will help curb your craving. Because you burn off the glycogen in your muscles during a workout (that's basically the carbs you ate, broken down for energy), it's likely that you could be craving food (or sugar specifically) immediately post-workout to refuel. (More on that post-workout sugar craving right here.)
But being a little hungry before sex could be linked to a higher sex drive: The presence of the hunger hormone ghrelin has been shown to increase sex drive in mice, according to a study published in Addiction Biology. The same has yet to be demonstrated in humans, but it may play a similar role in the link between your appetite for food and your sexual appetite.
The catch: If you're too hungry, it could backfire, as women may respond better to romantic cues after they've eaten a meal versus when they're hungry, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Appetite. Plus, a grumbling tummy isn't exactly sexy. So, if needed, sip a protein shake on your ride home from the gym—then get busy. (No time for sex? These other tips will help you control your post-workout hanger.)
4. Your muscles might not be as sore.
All those fabulous brain chemicals that go rushing around during and after sex are like nature's Advil. Research has demonstrated its effects on headaches specifically, as 60 percent of people reported that engaging in sexual activity improved their migraine, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Cephalalgia. But that doesn't mean it can't work magic for your sore muscles—or other aches and pains—too.
The release of all that dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins blocks pain receptors, which can all help you feel less sore after exercise, says Hall. And—if you're lucky—it could even last long enough to cover that delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that hurts so good. (Here: more natural pain remedies you need to know about.)
"There are studies that have indicated patients with chronic pain (like fibromyalgia and arthritis) will report a decrease in pain anywhere from three hours to three days following an orgasm," says Vandegeest-Wallace.
5. You'll be putting in exercise overtime.
Loathe cardio? Get busy following your strength sesh and you basically have an excuse to skip the treadmill forever. Even without an O, experts say a half-hour romp burns about 150 calories, and that number goes up if you climax. Science agrees: A young, healthy woman can expect to burn about 3.1 calories per minute during sex, according to a 2013 study published in PLOS ONE.
You can even estimate your calorie burn based on you and your partner's gender and weight, sex positions, and duration, using this "sexercise calculator" created for Men's Fitness by SuperDrug Online Doctor. (Better yet: There's now a fitness tracker for sex, so you can keep tabs on exactly how many calories you burn.) Who knows, aiming for a high-calorie burn might be the motivation you two need for switching up your usual routine and trying some steamy new positions (like these that double as exercise).
In the mood for slower, more sensual sex? Think of it as yoga practice—even if it's not high-intensity, it's still good for your body and mind. While bunny-rabbit-style might help you burn more calories, tantric-style sex could help you be more mindful and in-tune with your partner, says Hall. (Or try these yoga poses made for better sex.)
Not to mention, it could help you learn to love the gym itself. For people who think of the gym as a more of a chore, the post-workout dose of pleasure can be an added incentive to work out. "If you immediately associate working out with orgasm, joy, and the release of all these hormones, I think that could be a really strong reinforcer for exercise," says Hall.
Tell your partner about that especially tempting post-workout incentive and, chances are, you won't have to persuade him or her to be your gym buddy.