Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Dear Doc | ‘Sexercise’ vs exercise

Published:Sunday | September 29, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Q Dear Doc, I was having a discussion with my partner about us getting older and needing to get healthier and doing more exercise, and he said we could have more sex instead. Now, I know men will say and do anything to get more sex, but I was wondering, does sex count as exercise?

A That is always a question that makes me laugh, as I have been asked that quite a lot, and it has been the topic of many a heated conversation. This is what I have come up with after my many discussions.

Having sex most certainly counts as physical activity and can even sometimes reach the level of ‘moderate’ exercise, but it is neither consistent nor vigorous enough to count as a workout. Even the most active sex life cannot replace other kinds of exercise in your life.

Here are some reasons why:

- To begin with, sex does not last as long as it would take for you to walk 10,000 steps, or take a spin class, or run a mile. A study done estimated the average sex act lasts about six minutes.

- Another reason is, less than 50 per cent of couples in their 30s, 40s, and 50s report having sex more than two or three times a week, but the Center for Disease Control recommends that adults get at least two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise (the level of brisk walking), along with muscle-strengthening activity. Sex does occasionally reach the level of moderate exertion, but whether it counts as actual exercise depends on how long you maintain that pace. I am certain it will not reach the recommended two hours and 30 minutes per week.

- Sex also does not burn as much energy as a workout for most people, either. One study found that most men burn about four calories per minute having sex, but will burn more than twice that while jogging. The same study monitored people’s hearts on a treadmill in a lab and during sexual activity at home to compare exertion. The treadmill won.

With that said, ‘sexercise’ will not replace the need for a gym membership or your running shoes, but in order to not be completely disliked by your partner and numerous readers, it does offer some health benefits.


1 It helps keep your immune system humming

Sexually active people take fewer sick days. People who have sex have higher levels of what defends your body against germs, viruses, and other intruders. A study found that college students who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of a certain antibody, compared to students who had sex less often.


2 Boosts your libido

Having sex will make sex better and will improve your libido. For women, having sex increases vaginal lubrication, blood flow, and elasticity, all of which make sex feel better and help you crave more of it.


3 Improves women’s bladder control

A strong pelvic floor is important for avoiding bladder incontinence. Sex can be like a workout for your pelvic floor muscles, because when you orgasm, it causes contractions in those muscles, helping to strengthen them.


4 Lowers your blood pressure

Research has suggested a link between sex and lower blood pressure. One landmark study found that sexual intercourse lowered systolic blood pressure (the first number on your blood pressure test).


5 Lowers heart attack risk

A good sex life is good for your heart. Besides being a great way to raise your heart rate, sex helps keep your oestrogen and testosterone levels in balance, both of which play a role in heart disease. During one study, men who had sex at least twice a week were half as likely to die of heart disease than men who had sex rarely.


6 May make prostate cancer less likely

Men who ejaculated frequently were less likely to get prostate cancer, according to one study.

You don’t need a partner to reap this benefit however, as sexual intercourse as well as nocturnal emission and masturbation were all part of the equation.


7 Improves sleep

You may notice you fall asleep more quickly after sex. This is because after orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness after sex.


8 Eases stressBeing close to your partner can soothe stress and anxiety. Touching and hugging can release your body’s endorphins (feel-good hormones). Sexual arousal releases a brain chemical that revs up your brain’s pleasure and reward system, and can boost your self-esteem and happiness as well.

But if all that is not enough to help; of the participants in that treadmill study I mentioned earlier, 98 per cent reported that compared to jogging in place, having sex was a lot more fun.