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This Is Why Exercise Gets You So, Uh, Worked Up

Many people get a runner’s high, but who gets a runner’s hard-on? Here’s what you need to know about post-workout arousal

When my marathoner friend was trying to explain the infamous “runner’s high,” she described it as feeling warm, tingly and euphoric — free of anxiety and inhibitions. “The word you’re looking for,” I quickly corrected her, “is horny.”

As it turns out, we were both right: Many people get high from running, but far more get horned up from exercise in general.

It may seem strange that someone would get turned on when they’re sweaty and smelly. But scientifically speaking, the urge to have sex or masturbate right after working out makes a lot of sense. “Exercise and sex have a wonderful bidirectional relationship,” says Britney Blair, psychologist and co-founder of sexual wellness app Lover.

This relationship exists for a number of physiological reasons. For starters, it only takes about 30 minutes of exercise to trigger a release of endorphins, neurochemicals that make us feel good all over. Research suggests that endorphins regulate when we release sex hormones like testosterone, which boosts the libidos of both men and women. Working out also releases dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that play key roles in our reward system and how we experience pleasure. At the same time, the stress hormone cortisol — a notorious libido killer — is naturally reduced by exercise, eliminating any chemical cockblocks.

Moreover, as sociologist and sexologist Carol Queen explains, many popular exercises engage the core and pelvic muscles, “which means that exercise has supported blood flow to the area.” “Blood flow to the pelvis is one definition of sexual arousal, though not the most romantic, admittedly,” she continues.

Unfortunately, the optimal window for post-workout horniness is surprisingly small. One study found that the threshold is somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes for women, and about 60 minutes for men. Either way, consider this another sexy incentive to get that garage gym together, or to just do a few sit-ups while watching TV.

The good news is, the sweat stench after a workout shouldn’t stand in your way — provided your partner is already attracted to you. In a famous 1995 study known as the “sweaty T-shirt experiment,” researchers found that when women get a whiff of a perspiration-filled T-shirt of their significant others, it lowers their stress levels. So while it’s always a good call to de-sweat or deodorize your dick beforehand, you probably don’t need to hit the showers prior to getting busy between the sheets.

As for the dreaded risk of post-workout dick shrinkage, which is caused by increased blood flow to other areas of the body, there’s really only one way to avoid it: redirecting that blood flow down south via sex or masturbation.“You may even get a harder erection since the blood is already flowing at a higher rate,” urologist Jamin Brahmbhatt told Men’s Health back in 2017.

Now those are some hard gains.

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