Exercise improves sexual function in women taking antidepressants: results from a randomized crossover trial

Depress Anxiety. 2014 Mar;31(3):188-95. doi: 10.1002/da.22208.


Background: In laboratory studies, exercise immediately before sexual stimuli improved sexual arousal of women taking antidepressants [1]. We evaluated if exercise improves sexual desire, orgasm, and global sexual functioning in women experiencing antidepressant-induced sexual side effects.

Methods: Fifty-two women who were reporting antidepressant sexual side effects were followed for 3 weeks of sexual activity only. They were randomized to complete either three weeks of exercise immediately before sexual activity (3×/week) or 3 weeks of exercise separate from sexual activity (3×/week). At the end of the first exercise arm, participants crossed to the other. We measured sexual functioning, sexual satisfaction, depression, and physical health.

Results: Exercise immediately prior to sexual activity significantly improved sexual desire and, for women with sexual dysfunction at baseline, global sexual function. Scheduling regular sexual activity significantly improved orgasm function; exercise did not increase this benefit. Neither regular sexual activity nor exercise significantly changed sexual satisfaction.

Conclusions: Scheduling regular sexual activity and exercise may be an effective tool for the behavioral management of sexual side effects of antidepressants

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / chemically induced
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / therapy*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors