As the Winter Olympics kicked off in Pyeongchang this weekend, South Korean condom manufacturer Convenience Co. donated 100,000 condoms for the athletes to use, while the Korean Association for AIDS Prevention donated a further 10,000.
There's less than 3000 athletes competing in these Winter Olympics, so that's a lot of potential sex they'll be having. I'll leave you to do the math on just how much each athlete could average. I'm personally more interested in the fact they can guarantee their safety with all that condom access – Olympians are famously known to be a randy bunch, after all.
Yet studies have found that intense exercise lowers the libido. While regular exercise has been scientifically found to increase the average person's sex drive (it has both physiological and confidence-boosting benefits), a 2017 University of North Carolina study suggested there's a "tipping point" in which too much exercise – such as that which extreme athletes undertake – has a negative effect.
Undertaking very high levels of intense endurance training regularly is significantly associated with decreased libido scores, notably in men – where it can lower testosterone. Essentially, we can become both physically and mentally exhausted, and may place sex way down on the priorities list.
I'd call my sex drive "medium", and I'm a one hour of exercise a day kind of guy. Always in the morning before work. This is enough to leave me buzzing with energy by the time I sit down at my computer, and also means I eat the majority of my daily food intake in the first half of the day... meaning I rarely feel bloated in the evenings. This is actually the reason I switched from post-work gymming. After a tiring day at my desk and hours since lunch, I'd push through a workout, get home by 6.30pm, and find myself inextricably hungry. So I'd eat huge meaty dinners and copious protein snacks – ending up with a completely full belly, in addition to feeling physically and psychologically drained. None of this is cohesive with feeling the slightest bit sexy.
An hour a day in no way resembles "extreme endurance" exercise, but day after day, week after week, month after month, it does take its toll. Honestly, I don't know how Olympic athletes do what they do and still maintain any sort of romantic life. Perhaps they don't, and that's why they get stocked up with so many condoms to really let off steam when they've finished competing.
From my completely unscientific point of view, I believe certain types of exercise can heighten a person's sex drive, while other types can lower it. Take weight training for example. I don't know any other people who lift for strength who don't report a decent libido – something the aforementioned study also found among people who lift. All that blood pumping works in more ways than one, you see. Likewise, yoga, dance, and other low-impact exercise also seems to do good things for the libido.
It's hard-core cardio where sex drives seem to suffer, I think. Long and steady runs, big cycle rides over hills, spending a day out waterskiing... they all seem to leave you completely shattered. Those sustained, moderate intensity training sessions just put a real dent in your drive to get frisky. You just feel "spent" – it's one time the clichéd "I'm tired" excuse can actually be quite valid.
So what's the ideal amount of exercise to get in order to optimise your sex drive? There's no clear scientific answer. Researchers suggest it's unique to the individual and we should experiment with how much working out makes us feel energised, and see where our own tipping points are where we feel physically and emotionally depleted.
The North Carolina study did note that anybody who does more than 10 hours of intensive exercise a week self-report low sex drives. So for happy, healthy sex lives (and happy, healthy bodies), I'd say that's a good cap to put on any extreme physical activity that happens outside your bedroom.