Have you spent your January looking in the mirror, shuddering, and trying and make a vast improvement? Cue mass-buying of juicers and kale, and a collective agreement to exercise. This is all well and good, as working out is an essential part of healthy living, and can help combat a whole range of diseases.
But if you're one of the thousands already tempted to give up your new regime, you'll be pleased to know that the gym is not the answer to all life's problems. In fact, it can cause some of them; particularly when it comes to the bedroom.
Here are five reasons why intensive gym workouts may be bad for your sex life, and what you can do instead.
It reduces sensitivity
Studies from 2012 and 2014 showed that intensive cycling could potentially have a negative impact on a woman's pelvic floor and cause genital insensitivity, leading to altered sexual function. Women move more than men when in the saddle, and the angle of the handlebars causes the pelvis to shift in a way that exerts pressure on the perineum. This could cause reduced sensation and therefore negatively impact sexual pleasure. Ask yourselves ladies, is it worth the risk? Try yoga instead - it strengthens pelvic floor muscles which can increase sexual pleasure. And haven't you heard of the yogasm?
It could damage your self-confidence
Last January a study deduced that going to the gym in the hope of losing weight was pointless, as after a while, the body adapts to higher levels of activity, burning fewer calories. Plus, the release of cortisol during intensive exercise can actually lead to weight gain. The anguish of pushing yourself through a relentless exercise schedule only to see none of the results you want will only damage your self-esteem and likely drive you to less healthy habits.
So if you're punishing yourself at the treadmill in the hope of fitting into a new dress, it might be time to turn down the heat. No need to panic, studies show that regular moderate exercise (such as always climbing the stairs, a brisk walk at lunch) combined with a healthy diet can help you burn more calories overall.
It could reduce your libido
We live fast-paced, stress-filled lives. Professional women are badly affected by work-related anxiety, as well as the pressures of running a house and balancing childcare. As much as pounding out your frustrations in a boxing class might seem ideal for stress-busting, adding two hours of daily intensive workouts to a hectic lifestyle may just increase your stress levels. And when the body goes into high stress, fight-or-flight mode, our reproductive instincts are one of the first things to shut down, so it's hardly surprising if sex is the last thing on your mind after a gruelling HIIT workout. Not to mention the fact that you may be so tired at the end of the day you'll be snoring before your other half gets in bed.
So give yourself a break; recent research suggests that saving exercise for the weekend doesn't reduce your fitness levels. Use the spare time to relax: have a bath, catch up on Netflix or your favourite book. Definitely more likely to put you in the mood.
It could cause you injury
Taking on a fitness challenge such as running a marathon or triathlon (or just running on the treadmill for a bit without stopping) puts pressure on the joints and could increase your risk of serious injury. Knee and hip injuries are extremely common when beginning intensive exercise regimes (especially if you have not built up your fitness first) and can be debilitating.
Needless to say that spending your non-gym time groaning, making hot water bottles and reaching for ibuprofen is unlikely to do wonders for your sex life. Stick to swimming; an excellent workout with relatively little pressure on the joints.
It could send you broke
Gym membership is expensive. As is all the Lululemon workout gear you convinced yourself would both inspire you to go to the gym and convince the world of your "fit person" status.
Stop wasting your money for a gym you never use and embrace the home workout. There are plenty of free workouts available on YouTube, plus exercise apps that can work out cheaper than gym memberships. Or just go for a run! You can skip the guilt and spend the money on the things and people you really care about, which will only make you happier (and therefore more attractive) in the long run.