Having more sex could not only make us feel good, it could provide far-reaching health benefits.
Unfortunately we are having less of it – on average we have sex fewer than five times a month, compared to six-and-a-half times 20 years ago, according to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.
Yet studies have linked regular sexual activity to emotional well-being, reduced migraine pain and even a lower risk of prostate cancer.
A Canadian study last month found that half-an-hour of sexual activity could burn more calories than walking on a treadmill – the researchers claimed sexual activity could be considered significant exercise.
The study measured the sexual activity of 21 couples aged between 18 and 35 – they were monitored using an armband to calculate how many calories the wearer burned, and the intensity of the activity.
In a typical session lasting 25 minutes, the men burned an average of 100 calories, the women 69. The intensity of the activity was measured in METs (the Metabolic Equivalent of a Task); for men, the average reading was six METs, for women it was 6.6.
It’s roughly the same as playing doubles tennis, or walking uphill, for 20 minutes, 33 minutes of golf on a driving range, 40 minutes of yoga or 19 minutes of light rowing.
The Canadian findings chime with past campaigns by the British Heart Foundation, which suggested that 30 minutes of daily sex is as good for you as walking the dog.
Indeed, research is now showing that sex provides a ‘triple-whammy’ of benefits by combining a workout for the heart and lungs, the release of hormones that could lower stress and the production of new brain cells. And – for women – the added plus is a toning effect on the muscles in the pelvic floor.
Increasingly doctors view sex as ‘an under-used resource in terms of physical and emotional well-being’, says Dr Arun Ghosh, a private GP with a special interest in the health benefits of sex. ‘Plus, it’s not emphasised enough as a really good form of exercise.’
The Canadian research suggests it can be classed as a moderate intensity exercise – if you do enough of it, but more of that later.