New research from the Kinsey Institute suggests exercise could help reduce the sexual side effects of anti-depressants in women.
Ninety-six percent of all people who start taking antidepressants experience a change in their sexual function. In some cases it’s temporary, but it can also last after a person is no longer on antidepressants.
Tierny Lorenz, an Indiana University post-doctoral fellow, co-authored the study that’s published in Depression and Anxiety. The research shows 30 minutes of exercise prior to sex helps improve sexual function in women who are taking antidepressants.
“There are not any good interventions for these side effects besides taking another medication or switching to another drug, which for a lot of women is just really unacceptable,” says Lorenz.
More than 50 women who were on antidepressants participated in the study. Initially they had sex with no exercise, and all of them who committed to a regular 30 minute exercise routine reported improved sexual function.
“When these women are exercising they are increasing their sympathetic activity moderately so their blood is pumping,” says Lorenz. “There is a lot better blood flow in the very small capillaries particularly that you have in the vagina and clitoris so you’re improving genital blood flow.”
Women who exercised immediately before sex saw more benefits. And when women combined a cardio workout with strength training, the benefits lasted longer – the arousal window increased from 15 minutes to up to an hour.
Lorenz says while exercise would be beneficial for men, it wouldn’t have the same effect on sexual function.
“The effects that we observed were pretty specific to this sympathetic activity – this sympathetic mechanism and we just don’t see that, men are just wired a little differently genitally speaking,” she says.
Lorenz says the next step in the research would be involving the women’s partners and helping them negotiate a schedule that works with their sex life.