Erika’s note: This post gets graphic. This post is for grown folks.

Notice I didn’t say mature folks. I just said grown ones. I might make a couple of dick jokes in here, and I don’t want any e-mails about how you were clutching your pearls while you read this. I have pearls, too. I just tucked them away neatly while I wrote this so that I could help you get your [sex] life in order.

This is quality Big Sister time, right here. Enjoy it, and tuck away the prudishness.

Did you know that fitness can improve your sex life?

As in, pursuing a healthier lifestyle through the most important tenets of fitness can actually make sex feel better and last longer?

No, this isn’t an infomercial. And no, I’m not talking about merely “losing weight,” either. In fact, I’m not talking about “losing weight” at all.

There are core components to fitness itself that, as you improve them, you feel a marked shift in your sex life. More on that later.

You have to know what fitness entails outside of what we’re sold on magazine covers. It’s not “slim thighs” or “six pack abs.” It’s flexibility. It’s power. It’s improved heart and lung health. It’s…actually, let me just get into it.

1) Imagine your lungs as a pair of muscles. They become stronger and more capable with the help of training. They’re able to collect more air as they expand, and they are more capable of forcing out air quickly. Improving this process, usually through exercise and by maintaining a healthy diet, has incredible benefits for your blood pressure and, by extension, your blood circulation. Guess what that impacts?

A diet that’s bad for a man’s heart is also not good for his ability to have erections.

Research has shown that the same eating patterns that can cause heart attacks due to restricted blood flow in the coronary arteries can also impede blood flow to and within the penis. The blood flow is needed for the penis to become erect. Diets that include very few fruits and vegetables along with lots of fatty, fried, and processed foods can contribute to decreased blood circulation throughout the body.

Anything that is bad for a man’s heart is also bad for his penis, says Andrew McCullough, MD, associate professor of clinical urology and director of the male sexual health program at New York University Langone Medical Center.

Recent studies show that ED is relatively uncommon among men who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats including nuts and olive oil, fish, and wine, particularly red. [source]

Guess what else?

In the study of 417 sexually active women aged 31 to 60, women with high blood pressure were twice as likely to experience sexual dysfunction compared with their counterparts who had normal blood pressure. What’s more, advancing age and duration of high blood pressure further increased the risk of sexual dysfunction in women.

“These findings are significant because although hypertension affects more than 20% of the general population, and is a known risk factor for male sexual dysfunction, there have been no definite data on a relation between sexual dysfunction and hypertension in women,” says researcher Michael Doumas, MD, of the University of Athens in Greece. “Since female sexual dysfunction greatly affects patients and their sexual partner’s quality of life, it seems of great importance to properly recognize and manage female sexual dysfunction in hypertensive women.” [source]

The deeper you can breathe, the more intense your orgasms can be. Might even be able to come in multiples.

See what I did there?

2) Feel dehydrated often? Drink water. Lots and lots…of water. Know why? Because increased dehydration eventually impacts, among other things, the natural lubrication your vagina provides for penetration.

Dehydration can contribute to vaginal dryness (oy to the vey), fatigue (“Not tonight, honey.”), headaches (the classics never go out of style!) and irritability (that thing where he tries to initiate and you try to punch him in the face). Really, your sex drive doesn’t stand a chance — and neither does he.

“Being sufficiently hydrated is important for female sexual response, in part because it may facilitate natural lubrication, and also because it can make it easier to experience orgasms,” says Patricia Johnson, co-author of Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love. Plus, dehydration equals less oxygen being delivered to your sex organs — in other words, you’ll find yourself handing out missing posters for your vagina. [source]

Also worth noting, if you’ve ever experienced a charlie horse in the middle of sex—that is, an intense cramping sensation in a singular muscle—chances are high that’s related to dehydration, too.

3) Flexibility is a key element of sex because your options for sex positions are severely limited by what your body can do. Have you ever had a partner grab both of your ankles mid-coitus and put them on their shoulders…and then lean forward? Did you yelp in pain or enjoy it? That’s the same as standing on the ground and touching your toes! Can you touch your toes without bending your knees? Can you do that without holding your breath?

It’s not all about splits, although that’s what I think a lot of people fantasize about being able to do. Can you sit on your heels? As in, on the floor with your knees bent, booty resting on top of the heels of your feet? If you can’t make your cheeks touch your heels, that’s a flexibility issue too, and it impacts your ability to ride your partner.

Besides, have you ever held a back bend while your partner just dived, nose first, into your—what? I’m just saying. It’s fun!

4) Improving strength has numerous benefits in the bedroom, most obvious of which is something like what we saw Ving Rhames up to in Baby Boy.

I’m just sayin’. We’re talking real life stuff, here, and that was some real life ish.

A strong partner can hold sexual positions longer without getting exhausted, something which can knock you off your game mentally and totally derail an otherwise exciting intimate encounter. Experiencing shooting pains in an overworked muscle would throw anyone out of the mood.

Even more, there’s a confidence boost that comes from accomplishing great feats in the weight room. Did you add 10lbs to your weights today? Feeling good about it? You might pounce on your partner.

(I may or may not be speaking from personal experience, there.)

5) Lastly, an increasingly active lifestyle and diet have the ability to help you sustain your energy throughout the day, so much so that you’re not feeling like you’re exhausted by the time you get off work and don’t have anything left in the tank for your partner. A diet that isn’t riddled with sugar highs and crashes, and can actually help you stay energetic and happy throughout your day doesn’t leave you scowling at the thought of winding the day down with sex. In fact, it might excite you. It’d be a great way to burn off that extra energy, help you relax, and prepare you for a peaceful slumber.

I mean, you should be exhausted after a good round, right?

Listen. So much about our bodies is tied up in size that all the other meaningful and valuable information gets swallowed whole, never to be seen again, but there’s more to fitness than weight loss and that includes our sex lives. In other words, these are benefits you can begin experiencing after a week’s time, not after you’ve lost a bunch of weight.

Whomever you’re getting it on with, remember these rules: be safe, be smart, and be adventurous! Get it in, get it good, and get some rest!