5 interesting facts about how sex affects our health

September 4, 2016  22:05

Looking to get fit, clear your skin, boost your heart health and lighten your mood?

Don't buy into that extortionate diet fad or juice cleanse.

Have more sex.

That is the advice of two mental health and exercise experts at Curtin University. 

According to their new analysis of sexual health studies, the researchers claim consensual sex releases crucial hormones to improve mental and physical well-being.

Though you should maintain an active lifestyle outside the bedroom, they say, cavorting between the sheets can do wonders for your body and mind.

Pivotal to this health-boosting process is the feeling of trust, love, and affection that sexual partners feel.

'A regular sex experience with our partner, that's positive, is going to facilitate a connection,' Professor Matt Tilley, a sexual health lecturer at Curtin University, explains to ScienceNetwork West Australia.

'When we look at the function that those hormones might have then we can see that they assist to reduce stress, and of course endorphins specifically might act like a natural anti-depressant.

'Again we may have the function of oxytocin in there—or the love hormone as it's often referred to as—which can help facilitate people's love and trust of one another.'


That feeling of love and affection provokes the release of two things: endorphins (a neuro-transmitter) and serotonin (a hormone).

Both do wonders for your skin. 

Endorphins trigger the growth of new skin cells and natural collagen, minimizing wrinkles and acne scars. 

It also triggers the release of an antibody called immunoglubin A, which fights against whiteheads, aggravated eczema, psoriasis and acne.

And sweating from your facial pores - before a good long shower - is a great way to clear out any bacteria build-ups in your skin.  


'It's exactly the same benefits as doing a full body cardio work but the caveat being that you have to maintain it for long enough,' Professor Kevin Netto, director of research at Curtin University's School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, says.

'Everybody should exercise for about half an hour to an hour each day because we lead such sedentary lifestyles. 

'But if sex counts towards incidental exercise then that's great.'

Half an hour of sex burns an average of 70-100 calories, according to a 2013 study by the University of Quebec. 

Having sex for longer, perhaps in some more physically challenging positions, can easily boost that figure to improve your workout. 


That physical activity will naturally drive up your heart rate.

It is equivalent to around 23 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling, 20 minutes shooting hoops, or 15 minutes of moderate-intensity swimming.

While that doesn't cover your daily quota of exercise, it comes close to the American Heart Association's recommended daily amount of movement.

The AHA says, for overall cardiovascular health, we need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week. 

Beyond that, we should also aim to fit in two sessions of moderate-/high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity per week.


Serotonin, released during an orgasm, gives you a wave of happiness, calming any feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Beyond that chemical release, Professor Tilley says the sheer fact of being in a consensual sexual relationship is a natural anti-depressant. 

'There's that understanding of ourselves as a sexual being who's able to satisfy our partner and is also able to derive pleasure ourselves,' he says.

'Those feelings are likely to increase our sense of who we are and hence our self-esteem, and more broadly improve our mood or maybe just help maintain our elevated mood.'

But he warns that sex must be consensual and positive to reap the rewards for your bodily and mental health.  

Any other circumstance will have the opposite effect, he says.  

'If it's not a positive experience and it's full of emotional blackmail or betrayal or it's a coercive or assaulting experience it's going to be an absolute minefield of difficulty.'


When we orgasm, our bodies produce a hormone called prolactin, which makes us feel sleepy. 

Men produce much more than women. 

In fact, when men ejaculate their brains release a whole host chemicals, many of which induce sleep. 

These include norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and prolactin.

While women also feel tired, that may largely be to do with the physical exhaustion, as opposed to a man's chemically-induced fatigue.  

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