Sex Facts: Can sex get you fit?

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Sex may keep you fit, and done regularly enough, it definitely keeps your immune system strong and your body healthy.

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Regular sex is an important physical activity for both men and women.

Australians can’t get enough of it. Keywords including ‘sex’ and ‘porn’ are searched almost 23 million times a month, according to Business Insider Australia.

Bondi Beauty spoke one-on-one with Dr Ginni Mansberg, host of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, as well as Sydney eastern Suburbs sex therapist Dr Margaret Redelman to find out how much sex impacts not only our bodies, but also our minds.

By Narissa Moeller

Q: Can sex keep you healthy, and what are some of the main health benefits for those having sex?

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “Recent studies at Wilkes University have found having sex can actually improve your immune system. People having sex up to 3 times a week or less are less likely to fall sick than those not having sex at all. There was another study that found more frequent intercourse was linked to less heart attacks, but it’s hard to know because when you’re generally unhealthy and possibly prone to heart attack, perhaps you’re not up for a roll in the hay. Either feeling sick puts you off having sex, or having sex protects your heart, we’re not 100% sure yet.”

People having sex up to 3 times a week or less are less likely to fall sick than those not having sex at all.

How does sex effect mental wellbeing?

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “A drop in libido is a symptom linked with depression. Very few people can have depression and keep their libido. If sex hurts, or if you’ve previously had a traumatic experience with sex, then that’s all going to impact on your libido as well.”

Do you think sex is a physical and mental need, or just a form of pleasure?

Dr Margaret Redelman: “Sex is both a physical and mental need that goes beyond biological needs to human “meaningfulness.” That is, it’s based on who we do it with, how we rate them and ourselves, how we feel about the relationship and it’s future potential add or detract from the pleasure we ultimately feel. We have seized on the pleasure component of sex and made it a recreational form in our culture – not a bad thing if you’re lucky enough to have frequent good sex.”

Is this the same for men and women?

Dr Margaret Redelman: “I think men find sexual pleasure easier to achieve more consistently than women, and especially into old age.”

What are some of the physical benefits of sex? 

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “There hasn’t been much study, but sex is a form of exercise. Given we know the multitude of benefits from regular exercise, sex can do the same thing. If you’re having sex for half an hour every day, that’s going to be great.”

Can it impact on athletic performance?

Dr Margaret Redelman: “Individuals respond variably to sexual activity – some feel energised, some sleepy, some calm and loving. If aggression is needed then sex immediately before competition is probably not a good idea. If a good sleep is wanted then sex the night before may be beneficial. 20-30 minutes of sexual activity doesn’t use much energy.”

On average, how many calories can we burn through sex?

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “There is no exact figure as it depends greatly on the intensity level. If the sex is rough and rigorous and you’re working up a sweat, you’re going to burn off more than if you’re lying on your back in the missionary position not doing a whole lot.”

Dr Margaret Redelman: “Mild to moderate exercise for half an hour burns about 200 calories. I wouldn’t count on it to lose weight but as far as incidental exercise goes, it’s better than nothing.”

What about nutrition, what foods should we be eating to help our performance in bed?

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “It’s pretty simple but having a generally healthy diet and not eating rubbish. Bad foods make you feel tired and sluggish, and when you’re feeling like that, you won’t want to have sex. Whereas, if you’re working out, eating healthy food, you instantly feel sexier and will want to have more sex.”

Should high-level sports people avoid sex the night before an event to ensure they don’t wake up sore?

Dr Margaret Redelman: “Each individual is different depending on physical fitness, flexibility and relaxation level. Any position that puts undue tension on the vaginal opening can tear tissue. Strong, sharp, deep thrusting can bruise internal tissue/organs, as it doesn’t give an opportunity for bowel or ovaries to move. Some positions, for example straight legs towards shoulders, can put pressure on the spine, hips and pelvis. Inadequate lubrication with friction can result not only in soreness but also a urinary tract infection so good lubrication is essential. Communication between partners about comfort is also essential if something new is being tried.”

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “There’s no documented proof at all. There are some coaches who ban it the night before, but I can’t see how that would help.”

We heard pelvic floor exercises are critical for women and men to do to improve the sexual experience. Explain how it all works.

Dr Margaret Redelman: “For women, the stronger your pelvic floor, the better your orgasms will be. If you’re below a certain strength, you won’t be able to have an orgasm and if it’s above a certain strength, there’s potential to be multi-orgasmic. Walking upright puts tremendous pressure on our pelvic floor muscles, so as we age and after kids we have reduced pelvic floor strength. So to maintain orgasmic potential over time, it is very important to exercise your pelvic floor.”

So what exercises should we do?

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “Imagine you are in a supermarket and you really have to pee. What do you do? You hold it in. You can do this all the time, wherever you are.”

Dr Margaret Redelman: “I recommend 120 contractions every day for the rest of your life. 5 lots of 20 quick contractions, then 20 slow contractions. Slow contractions are a bit harder to do and require co- ordination with deep abdominal breaths to the count of 4.

A good way to test at home is to put your whole index finger into the vagina and contract your pelvic floor muscles as tightly as you can around the finger. Can you hold the finger in while trying to pull out?

The Pill can lower libido levels. What about all these supplements going around in gyms at the moment, are any having an impact on sexual performance?

Dr Ginni Mansberg: “This subject is poorly regulated and no evidence has really been found. I do know there are supplements that a lot of body builders take that affect their sleep, which ultimately can have an impact on sex.  We don’t know what’s in them so I would suggest to avoid them at all costs.”

Want to improve your sex drive? Ginni gives us the top 5 biggest libido boosters for women:

1. Entering a new relationship or otherwise known as the ‘honeymoon period.’ Usually this lasts for 6-24 months.

2. Increase in exercise regime

3. Losing weight

4. Better diet

5. Generally looking after yourself and your overall appearance

 

 

 

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Renae Leith-Manos

CONTRIBUTOR

Renae Leith-Manos travels the world writing (www.renaesworld.com.au). She has had a colourful media career as a journalist in many magazines and newspapers, and spends her time writing, consulting to new businesses, running, doing yoga, swimming & cycling.
She's likes healthy eating, but thinks chocolate cake is just as important as kale chips.
She spends most weekends hanging out with her gorgeous twins.

2 thoughts on “Sex Facts: Can sex get you fit?

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