For women, sexual dysfunction can be an undesirable side effect of taking antidepressants. But research at the University of Texas at Austin points the way to a drug-free way to offset this problem.
The study shows that engaging in exercise at the right time significantly improves sexual functioning in women who are taking these medications.
“These findings have important implications for public health, exercise as a treatment for sexual side effects is accessible, cheap and does not add to burden of care,” says researcher Tierney Lorenz.
The results show that 30 minutes of exercise just before interacting with a significant other can reduce the effect of the libido-dulling drugs. The findings are based on study participants’ self-reported assessments of their sexual functioning, satisfaction and psychological health before and after the experiment.
Moderately intense exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system. It also facilitates blood flow to the genital region. Antidepressants have been shown to depress this system. Scheduling regular sexual activity and exercise may be an effective tool for alleviating these adverse side effects, Lorenz notes.
“Considering the wide prevalence of antidepressant sexual side effects and the dearth of treatment options for those experiencing these distressing effects, this is an important step in treating sexual dysfunction among women who are taking antidepressants,” Lorenz says.