, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 352-361
Date: 09 Mar 2012

Acute Exercise Improves Physical Sexual Arousal in Women Taking Antidepressants

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Abstract

Background

Antidepressants can impair sexual arousal. Exercise increases genital arousal in healthy women, likely due to increasing sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity.

Purpose

Test if exercise increases genital arousal in women taking antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which suppress SNS activity, and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which suppress the SNS less.

Method

Women reporting antidepressant-related sexual arousal problems (N = 47) participated in three counterbalanced sessions where they watched an erotic film while we recorded genital and SNS arousal. In two sessions, women exercised for 20 min, either 5 or 15 min prior to the films.

Results

During the no-exercise condition, women taking SSRIs showed significantly less genital response than women taking SNRIs. Exercise prior to sexual stimuli increased genital arousal in both groups. Women reporting greater sexual dysfunction had larger increases in genital arousal post-exercise. For women taking SSRIs, genital arousal was linked to SNS activity.

Conclusions

Exercise may improve antidepressant-related genital arousal problems.

A preliminary report of data from this study was presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) in Scottsdale, AZ, February 2011.