Health benefits of sex - everything from less stress to better memory!
4th February 2014
sexGreat news! Having sex not only makes us feel great and boosts our confidence, it could also provide a number of health benefits. Unfortunately, according to data from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, we are generally engaging in less of it! Despite regular sex being linked to less stress, better emotional wellbeing, less migraine pain and even a lower risk of prostate cancer, on average we are having sex fewer than five times per month. 20 years ago the average stood at six and a half times. A Canadian study was published last month which looked at the sexual activity of 21 couples aged between 18 and 35.  The couples had to wear an armband which worked out intensity of the sex and roughly how many calories the wearer had expended. Amazingly, it was discovered that 30 minutes of sexual activity burned away more calories than walking on a treadmill; the researchers arguing sex therefore could be considered a ‘significant’ exercise. For sexual activity lasting around 25 minutes, an average of 100 calories were burned off by the men and 69 calories for women. Intensity was monitored in METs (the Metabolic Equivalent of a Task); for men, the average reading was 6 METs, for women it was 6.6. This is the equivalent of 19 minutes of light rowing, walking uphill or engaging in a game of doubles tennis for 20 minutes, or 40 minutes of yoga. The British Heart Foundation have previously said that half an hour of sex each day is as beneficial for you as walking the dog. There is evidence that sex actually provides a whole range of benefits by giving your lungs and heart a workout, and then helping to emit hormones that not only decrease stress but generate new brain cells. Scientists at the University of Maryland in the U.S. discovered the latter benefit after their study showed middle-aged rats made more brain cells after mating. This is known as neurogenesis, thought to be responsible for lost brain function as a result of aging. Following extended periods of sexual activity, brain function was boosted, in particularly in the hippocampus area - the region of the brain where new memories are made. “A huge amount of brain stimulus occurs during intercourse,” comments Dr Ghosh, a private GP who studies the health benefits of sex. “It's why we feel so overtaken when we orgasm. When researchers do MRI scans on people in orgasm, they observe both sides of the brain being stimulated, including parts of the brain we wouldn't normally use.” Older men may be delighted to learn that regular sexual activity may remarkably lower their prostate cancer risk. Researchers from the University of Nottingham quizzed 840 men about their sexual activity levels past and present. Those in their 50s with an active sex life (ejaculating over 10 times each month) were at a lower risk from what is still the most common type of cancer for UK men. Experts believe this could be the case as if men don’t clear sperm, it can be re-absorbed by the prostate gland. “Sperm needs to be regularly flushed out to allow new cells to develop. It's a bit like cleaning out a pipe, it may help stop the build-up of old cells that might be more likely to turn cancerous,” says Dr Ghosh. So what are the obstacles to ‘great sex’? Two of the common health problems which might hinder this are erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Erectile Dysfunction (ED), also known as male impotence, is a very common condition afflicting around 4 in 10 men over 40. Such problems can be catastrophic for a man's self-esteem, causing stress that can affect the man’s health and relationship with his partner. Premature ejaculation is one of the most common and frustrating sexual problems that a man can suffer from, and is something they find difficult to discuss with their own doctor. Men with this problem climax (come) before penetration or in less than two minutes after penetration. Ejaculating too soon is embarrassing and unsatisfying for both partners. It is particularly common in younger men however many middle-aged men also have this problem. Suitable male patients can buy Viagra for erectile dysfunction, or buy Priligy for premature ejaculation, both following an online consultation with one of Medical Specialists Pharmacy’s GMC-registered doctors.