As women start their menopausal transition, menopause sex drive, arousal, and even sexual satisfaction, including orgasm, sometimes take a nosedive. This can be frustrating, but it isn’t uncommon—in fact, more than half of menopausal women suffer from low libido.1
The hormonal changes experienced during perimenopause and menopause can cause fatigue, anxiety, and mood swings—these are common symptoms, but they may also affect women sexually.2 “Sexual libido and satisfaction naturally ebbs and flows throughout our life cycle, and the perimenopause and menopause years are no exception,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck, Chief Medical Officer at Bonafide. “Hormonal changes during this time, and certain life circumstances—including relationship issues, professional and personal responsibilities, medical conditions and medications, and stress—are all influential.”
The good news is that women don’t have to settle for a ho-hum sex life or a decreased menopausal sex drive. Although there are a number of ways to boost desire and arousal during menopause, today we’d like to talk about one specific remedy: exercises that can help to strengthen the pelvic floor.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
Have you ever leaked a little bit of urine when coughing, laughing, or running? Women in menopause may experience these issues due to a weakened pelvic floor—a network of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that support the bladder, uterus, rectum, and vagina.3
“Pelvic floor relaxation and weakness are not uncommon in women,” says Dr. Dweck, as she adds that susceptible women include those with certain genetic factors, who have gone through pregnancy and childbirth, and who have obesity. She also emphasizes how important it is to keep these muscles toned—and notes that ignoring a weak pelvic floor during menopause may lead to other issues, including; pelvic pain and pressure, organ prolapse, urine and bowel incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
With all of this in mind, it pays to take time now to get your pelvic floor in shape—for better overall health and to potentially improve your menopause sex drive and your experience with sex during and after menopause.
What Are the Best Exercises to Improve Sex?
If you’ve ever started an exercise routine, you know how difficult it can be to stick to it. Committing to a sex improvement exercise routine or pelvic floor exercises is no different, so it’s important to find a way to incorporate exercises that target this area in your daily schedule. Fortunately, there are several exercise options you can do now, whether you’re just starting perimenopause, or you’ve already gone through menopause. (Note: consider checking with your healthcare provider first to make sure it’s ok for you to begin a new routine.)
Kegel Exercises for Sexual Benefits
Kegel exercises for women work by contracting and relaxing specific muscles, and they are the ideal type of pelvic floor exercises for toning and strengthening. They help relax the vagina, making penetration more comfortable during sex. Kegel exercises can also help to improve vaginal lubrication, allow for better blood to flow to the genitals, increase sexual arousal, and make it easier to reach orgasm.4
So, how do you do Kegel exercises? First, you’ll need to locate the correct muscles.
The next time you urinate, try to temporarily stop your urine flow. The muscles you squeeze to make this happen are the key muscles to target for this pelvic floor exercise, and the squeezing motion you complete when stopping your flow, is basically how you do Kegel exercises.5
“Kegel exercises can be done on one’s own time, during other activities,” says Dr. Dweck. So, feel free to try them when you’re working at your desk, driving your car, or standing in line at the store. (Nobody but you will even know you’re getting a workout!) For a simple Kegel workout, try following these steps:6
- Contract or “squeeze” the pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds (start with 5 seconds if you are brand-new to Kegels)
- Release and relax the muscles for the same number of seconds that you squeezed
- Repeat 5 to 10 sets up to three times a day
Want to step up your Kegel exercise routine? Try some Kegel bridges:7
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on floor, hip-width apart, and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle
- Make sure your weight rests on your upper back and shoulders (you may want to lie on a towel or yoga mat for comfort)
- Raise your hips to form a bridge. Hold this pose and squeeze your pelvic floor for 10 seconds
- Release your muscles, lower hips to the ground, and rest for 10 seconds
If you really want to boost your routine involving Kegel exercises for sexual benefits, consider trying a pelvic floor exerciser—a device designed to target your pelvic floor muscles. “Working with a pelvic floor exerciser can be a game changer for improving and supporting pelvic floor health,” Dr. Dweck says. Pelvic floor exercise equipment includes Kegel weights and digital pelvic floor training products. Dr. Dweck also recommends working with a pelvic floor therapist in combination with pelvic exercisers for maximum benefit.
Helpful Yoga Poses to Improve Sex During Menopause
Yoga is a type of exercise known for easing overall stress. Some yoga poses may also be considered pelvic floor exercises as they help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. When combining pelvic floor strength with less personal stress, it’s possible that your sexual experiences and menopause sex drive may benefit. In fact, the Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study involving women between ages 22 and 55 who committed to a 12-week, one-hour daily yoga regimen focusing on six areas: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain. At the end of the test period, 3 in 4 women reported that their sex lives improved—and women over age 45 reported the biggest improvements across all the focus areas.8
Yoga can be practiced alone or in combination with Kegel exercises. “Many yoga poses likely incorporate pelvic floor strength training,” explains Dr. Dweck. “[This] is typically a dedicated practice which also focuses on strengthening the core, as well as improving mindfulness and breathing.”
Here are two specific yoga poses that may be beneficial for supporting your pelvic floor along with better sex during and after menopause:
Child’s Pose - This yoga pose doesn’t require extreme flexibility, so it’s ideal for women who may have limited mobility:9
- Kneel on the floor with knees hip-width apart
- Exhale while slowly leaning forward. Place your hands in front of you (on the floor, shoulder-width apart) and relax your upper body as you pull back, so that your bottom touches your heels. Keep your hands on the floor as your arms stretch in front of you
- As you lean back, allow your forehead to touch the floor (or rest it on a block or pillow if it’s more comfortable)
- Hold this position for a minimum of 30 seconds
Squat Pose – This yoga pose works to increase blood flow to your groin while stretching out your hips and pelvis:10
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips
- Lower your body so that you end in a squatting position. Go only as low as you are comfortable!
- Hold this position for a few seconds while focusing on your breathing, then return to the original starting position
Strength Training to Improve Sex
Lifting light weights can help support better sex during menopause in a couple of different ways. First, strength training can boost testosterone levels, which in turn pumps up your sex drive, in addition to your muscles. Women naturally produce testosterone—albeit one-seventh the amount men do—still, increased testosterone may result in a higher sex drive. Just two or three days of strength training each week may make a difference.11
Second, exercise in general isn’t just good for the body—it also benefits the brain, says Dr. Dweck. “Any exercise, including basic cardio and weight training, might suffice since endorphins (feel good chemicals in the brain) are released during physical activity, which may enhance mood, and in-turn have a positive effect on sexual satisfaction. Additionally, exercise might enhance sexual self-esteem by optimizing body weight and tone. When a woman feels sexy, she’ll likely feel more sexual.”
It’s absolutely possible to remain sexually active as you enter menopause—and for many years afterward. Exercise is key to supporting your pelvic floor as well as maintaining sexual desire, energy, and satisfaction, so, why wait? Incorporating exercises that target your pelvic floor into your daily routine today just may help you experience the best sex of your life!