Efficacy of an exercise intervention for sexual side effects of antidepressant medications in women
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Antidepressants are associated with sexual side effects (Clayton, Keller, & McGarvey, 2006). Sexual side effects are associated with non-compliance or discontinuance of antidepressants (Werneke, Northey, & Bhugra, 2006). Despite this, there are few empirically supported treatments for antidepressant side effects. However, in laboratory studies, exercise immediately before sexual stimuli improved sexual arousal of women taking antidepressants (Lorenz & Meston, 2012). I evaluated if exercise improves sexual functioning in women experiencing antidepressant-induced sexual side effects. Fifty-two women 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 (3x/week) or 3 weeks of exercise separate from sexual activity (3x/week). At the end of the first exercise arm, participants crossed to the other. I measured sexual functioning, sexual satisfaction, depression and physical health. Completers showed modest improvements in sexual functioning and satisfaction. For women taking selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, exercising immediately before sexual activity was superior to exercise in general. As well as known effects in improved physical and psychological health, exercise may help improve sexual health and pleasure in women taking antidepressants. These findings have important implications for public health, as exercise is accessible, cheap, and does not add to burden of care.