By Amanda Groulx
It’s physical, active, and a whole lot of fun. It can be done almost anywhere, so don’t worry about a playing field.
There are no rules, no referee and no off-season. You don’t need much equipment, and you don’t have to wear a uniform. Actually, for this sport, you don’t need to wear anything at all. Ok, ok. So sex isn’t really a sport, but many people will tell you it’s a great workout.
And it can also add other health benefits to a loving, sexual relationship. According to registered nurse Lynn Doherty, of the Family Health Network, as long as it’s in a loving relationship “sex can release tension, promote relaxation and make you feel good.” This is because sex releases endorphins. “It’s like your own personal drug,” she said. Endorphins are known to reduce stress and act as a natural painkiller — making you feel very relaxed and promoting a good sleep.
They can also promote a state of euphoria. “If you have sex in the morning you’ll feel great all day,” said Ruth Weiss, owner of Birds and Bees, the Love, Sex and Romance Shop in Kensington Market. She believes another health benefit of sex is the emotional release that goes along with it. “It improves your self esteem,” she said. “If you’re comfortable with your body, and using it in that way, you’re going to be more comfortable with other things, too.”
Doherty agrees, adding that sex “promotes closeness in a relationship, and can make you more emotionally mature.” But this does depend heavily on the situation. “Sex is only healthy when both parties are in agreement, or on the same page,” she said. Sex can be emotionally damaging if it is part of aggression or control. “In those situations,” Doherty said, “it can be just terrible.” Doherty is not referring specifically to situations of violence or force.
Even between two consenting individuals, sex can be used as a way to take out aggression or assume control of the relationship. This being said, as long as your emotional relationship is healthy, sex can be a good workout. “It’s great cardio and gets your blood flowing,” Weiss said.
According to Urban Male Magazine, which is Canada’s first men’s interest magazine, sex helps circulate your blood and lower cholesterol. It can also help maintain an ideal body weight. Sexual intercourse burns about 150 calories per half hour, which is about the same as walking 4.8 km/h.
Urban Male Magazine also said that sex produces estrogen in women and testosterone in men — the chemicals that enhance the sex drive. So having more sex produces more chemicals and will make sex better. But, like in any sport, there is some element of risk.
The most obvious is an abnormal growth in the woman’s abdomen. “Unplanned pregnancy puts people in an awkward situation,” Doherty said. But there is an even bigger risk: sexually transmitted infections (STIs). “Some of these,” Doherty said, “can be life threatening.” According to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, some of the most common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes, HIV, and genital warts.
The first three are caused by bacteria and can be cured with antibiotics, though if they are not found early enough, they can cause permanent damage. The latter are caused by viruses and can not be cured with modern medicine, though treatment to control these viruses is available.
The college suggests using condoms, knowing the history and health of your partner, and regularly getting tested to minimize your risk of receiving or spreading one of these infections. Provided you do it safely, sex can be healthy. It’s beneficial on emotional and physical levels.
It makes you feel good, and can be a fun workout. And hey, even though sex is not really a sport, at the end of it all you still score.