This is not an article about working out.
Sure, the ways you may choose to engage with these activities might represent something like a workout. And sure, differentiating movement from exercise can be a bit like splitting hairs. But working out carries with it many truckloads of baggage, never mind an oppressive and exclusive rhetoric.
This is an article about your body’s wisdom.
About how your body holds onto stress but also pleasure, and some ways to mindfully manage and release the former so that it’s easier to tap and more fully step into the latter. It’s about bringing more capacity, trust, and joy into your daily life so that can spill over into finding freedom in pleasure in the bedroom.
So, yes, there are “exercises”—the best exercise for sex. And, yes, you might find yourself sweating or panting during any of them. But nothing here is prescriptive. It’s all about you: meeting yourself where you are and enjoying more pleasure, connection, and intimacy as a result.
Why movement matters for sex
We all know that moving your body has countless physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. Some of these—like being stronger in certain areas—can help increase your stamina, flexibility, and precision during different types of sex. Others have a less direct impact, like clearing stress and your mind or increasing your confidence.
It’s often the latter that have the most impact on your sex life, particularly when it comes to managing and releasing stress. That’s because, for many people, stress shuts down desire. After all, when you experience stress, every single part of your body changes. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically—your entire system responds. For many people, especially those living in Black, Brown, fat, disabled, and other marginalized bodies—that stress may never have a chance to discharge or end because stressors are baked into the very systems that surround us all.
Movement is more than exercise or working out
Most of the time these three terms get conflated. The problem with that is all the ways that exercise and working out have long been used to oppress people. For the sake of this article, “movement” is a more expansive term. It doesn’t have any specific goal, other than supporting you. And yes, for some people that looks like a sweaty run, lifting weights, a HIIT workout, or a group fitness class. Those are included in our list of best exercise for sex but they aren’t all that we’re talking about. These movements might not look like what you (or others—but who cares about them?!) expect. And, like with sex—there is no end goal but neutrality and/or pleasure.
6 Exercises for Better Sex
1. TOUCH YOUR EDGES
When it comes to increasing stamina as well as growing your emotional capacity, think about mindfully bringing yourself to your physical edge—whatever that looks like for you—and staying there.
Your edge should be a place that feels challenging but not triggering or scary, and at which you can still breathe through your nose. If you start breathing through your mouth, you’ve pushed too far. No big deal, but an important piece of information (and something else for you to track if you’re into that)! Side note: if you do a lot of movement and you aren’t used to nose breathing you may have to slow down first.
This will help build up your physical capacity for going harder, longer, faster, and stronger, as well as your ability to hold multitudes, big feelings, and triggers without going into fight/flight/freeze/fawn.
2. BREAK OUT OF YOUR BOX
Living with chronic stress can limit how you move. You might take up less space, have limited range of motion, move more stiffly, or only move in certain ways. This all makes a lot of sense: it’s one way that your body tries to keep you safe from real, perceived, or internalized stressors.
Building on the advice above, play with moving creatively and in different planes and or taking up more space. Making figure 8s with your hands, feet, or hips is a great place to start. Whatever movement you choose, you can also play with speed, size, and direction.
3. SHAKE (OR JUMP) IT OUT
If you’ve ever owned a pet you know what they do after they get spooked: they shake! This is a primal response to stress and something most people already do when they shudder at something gross or get the chills (yes, cold is a stressor).
It’s also something you can use more mindfully to release what Jane Clapp calls “movement potential.” Think of this potential as the charge of stress that builds up in your body.
Shaking is one movement to discharge that potential and the associated stress. It can help with current stressors (COVID I’m looking at you) as well as longer term ones. Rebounding is another popular option that offers a similar benefit.
4. TAP INTO YOUR PHYSICAL CREATIVITY
For many people, creativity in the bedroom is a plus. Switching up positions, techniques, styles, and toys can add newness, variety, and fun. Living with chronic and/or traumatic stress, however, can limit this. There’s less creativity, playfulness, range, and expansiveness because it’s safer that way.
Dancing—especially when it’s guided by someone who is trauma informed—incorporates all the things outlined above and also adds in a layer of creativity, opening you up to new ideas and adventures. Specifically, classes like Embody, Dance Yourself Together, and Fighting Monkey give you guidance and a container in which to move while offering practices to move differently. Or just put on your favorite songs and let loose, choosing something that you don’t know any steps to and being mindful to try new movements and motions to break out of the box.
As a bonus, dancing also helps you get better at rhythm, hip movement, and core strength—all of which directly enhance intercourse.
5. TAKE UP A TASK
When you experience stress, every single part of your body changes. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically—your entire system responds. For many people, especially those living in Black, Brown, fat, disabled, and other marginalized bodies—that stress may never have a chance to discharge or end.
In addition to the above ideas, task-oriented activities like throwing a ball against the wall or balancing jenga blocks as you move give your brain something to focus on, allow you to stay present, and to release some of that movement potential.
6. GET STRONGER
Think about how you move your body during the sex you have OR that you want to have. Do you use your arms a lot? Do you want to be able to pick up your partner? Flip them? Be better with your tongue, be able to deep throat, or not have your fingers cramp? Tie tiny knots? Flog them for longer? From there, think about stretches and exercises that will help strengthen those muscles. For some of these, you might need to look beyond mainstream media and Youtube.
For many people, the core, including the pelvic floor, is also a place to focus.
A final note here: some of these might be things you work into your days and some of these might be more sex-specific. For example, my core is a little sluggish and my hip flexors tend to be tight. While I work on that daily, I also know that before sexy times it can help to give them a bit of extra love to wake up my core and release my hips. This lets me go into sexy times with more freedom and less worry—the biggest turn-on of all.
The best exercise for sex is movement that helps you have more intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex
From hitting a personal record that makes you feel on top of the world to strengthening your sex muscles to using movement to discharge stress, there are so many practical, accessible, fun, and powerful ways to move your body in pursuit of finding freedom in pleasure.
Thank you to Jane Clapp, Jennifer Snowden, Karine Bell, Resmaa Menakem, Elke Schroeder, Ayesha Bhonsele, Jess Grippo, Nadia Munla, and Hannah Husband for trainings, classes, and conversations that contributed to this article.