Exercise and low sex drive

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Medically approved by Dr Chris Airey
Chief Medical Officer
iconLast updated 11th February 2024
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Exercising regularly is essential for maintaining your overall health and well-being. Most of us assume it only benefits our physical and mental health – but keeping active also boosts libido!

Exercise puts you in the mood for sex by boosting the ‘happy hormones’ in your brain. It is also crucial for regulating the levels of hormones in your body, including testosterone. Testosterone has a direct impact on your sex drive and helps you maintain a strong erection during sex. However, more isn’t always better when it comes to exercise.

If you want to get your sex drive back naturally, this article explains how exercise can help. We look at what the latest research reveals about keeping active and libido and the best testosterone-boosting exercises you can try today.

How does exercise impact libido?

The key to good health – libido included – is regular, consistent and varied exercise. Research shows that men who regularly exercise have higher testosterone levels than less active men, and testosterone levels significantly impact how often you feel ‘in the mood’.

Exercise is thought to increase testosterone production for two main reasons:

  • Reduced body fat: If you exercise regularly, your body fat percentage will drop. Fat contains an enzyme called aromatase that converts testosterone into oestrogen. Less fat reduces the amount of testosterone that is converted, so the more testosterone you have. 
  • Increased growth hormone: Working out increases the production of growth hormone, particularly if you’re weightlifting. Research has found that growth hormone stimulates the testes to produce more testosterone and may boost your sex drive.

However, not all exercise is good for testosterone production. Whilst aerobic exercise can increase testosterone production (especially in overweight men), too much aerobic exercise can have the opposite effect on testosterone levels. Running and cycling for hours at a time isn’t a good idea if you want to boost your sex drive. 

What’s more, intense exercise and training are known to increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’. It can negatively impact your sleep, mood, and muscle mass, putting stress on your nervous system. Not only does this stop you from feeling in the mood for sex, but it also makes you feel exhausted.

Therefore, it’s important not to overdo your training sessions. Rest and recovery help you increase your testosterone levels without triggering a cortisol surge – and leave you enough energy for sex.

What exercises increase testosterone levels & sex drive?

Some exercises are better than others for increasing testosterone and improving your libido. Hit the gym with these exercises for the most effective results.

Weights and strength training

Research shows that resistance training increases testosterone production in men, making them one of the best options if you have low libido. These exercises stimulate large muscles and increase the production of testosterone and growth hormone, which may improve vitality and sex drive.

And the results are pretty impressive – one study found that just a 30-minute weight-lifting session boosted testosterone levels by 21.6%. For best results, research suggests you should have longer rest periods (~120 seconds) between your sets.

Here are five key weight-training exercises you can try today, be that with free weights, resistance bands, or your body weight.

1. Squats

Squats are known as the ‘king of exercises’, hitting several of the body’s largest muscle groups at once: the quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower and upper back are all involved in this lift. As a result of this whole-body stress, the production of growth hormone and testosterone are boosted.

2. Deadlifts

If squats are the king of weight training exercises, then deadlifts are the queen! Whilst it doesn’t hit as many muscle groups, the deadlift requires whole-body tension. It hits all the back muscles, including the erectors and the traps, for a powerful look and a boost to hormone production.

3. Hip thrusts

This lesser-known exercise is often neglected by lifters, but it causes the highest tension production in the gluteal muscles. The glutes are arguably one of the most important muscle groups in the body and key to testosterone production due to their size.

4. Bench press

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises in the gym, probably due to its association with upper body strength and power. It hits many upper-body muscle groups, including the pectorals and triceps. While improving the definition of these muscles, it can also boost testosterone.

5. Rows

Rows are not only brilliant for improving upper back strength, but they also improve your posture. Almost unbelievably, some research suggests that improved posture can increase testosterone production. Other studies have conflicting results – but regardless, rows are a great exercise. 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another of the best exercises for increasing testosterone levels and libido. A study from 2021 found that after an eight-week HIIT training program, men’s testosterone levels were significantly increased. Meanwhile, their cortisol levels remained balanced. 

These impressive results are seen mainly because HIIT exercises have striking weight loss effects. You can burn many calories in a relatively short period, and you continue to lose weight by burning calories after the exercise has finished. This is because these exercises create a high metabolic demand paid off by the body for hours after.

At the same time, the rest intervals in between the high-intensity exercises give the body enough time to recover. This helps avoid excess cortisol production, benefiting your mood, sleep, and energy levels – all of which are great for your sex life.

Key takeaways…

Healthy testosterone levels are essential for overall good health – sex drive included!

Regular exercise is important for naturally increasing testosterone levels and improving your libido. It also has mood-boosting benefits that can help get you ‘in the mood’ and enhances blood flow throughout the body, which helps you maintain strong erections during sex.

However, there can be much of a good thing. Avoid overtraining, schedule plenty of rest, and use these exercises for the best results.

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While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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