Let’s talk about the good and bad of sexual health and sexual intercourse, good and bad. The good things about sex are clear. So, with willing and consenting adults, it’s good and positive, in general for the body. But why, is the question?
During one of my Periscope broadcasts, a viewer asked if this was so, could we “ditch the gym?” Well, that depends. During the act, the heart rate goes up. Regular exercise is defined as 2-3 times per week for at least half an hour or 150min/week. So, you do the math! If you can figure out how that works to swap out as cardiovascular exercise, go for it!
The other good effects sex has on the body includes decreasing headaches. Most headaches, whether they be migraine, tension or cluster headaches, have to do with blood flow; blood flow that either is not enough or is too much. Sexual intercourse actually helps to fix that. Who knew?
If you’ve heard me talk before, I talk a lot about the good feeling hormones–the endorphins, the dopamine, the serotonin and the like. Conditions like adrenal insufficiency can be associated with a decrease in cortisol. Adrenal glands are the little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, and they have to do with hormonal issues. Sex can lower cortisol levels. If you are headed towards the peri-menopausal phase of life, meaning around menopause, or if you are after menopausal age, you may suffer from lower vaginal elasticity and lubrication. So, the more intercourse you have, comfortably, of course, the better for improving lubrication. Some experts refer to this as “use it or lose it.” The less active you are, then the less lubrication there is there in that area. It makes sense that the less that area is being used, the more dried the cells will be. Right?
But it increases the heart rate but at a healthy rate but then afterwards in long- term studies that shows it lowers the heart rate, which is good. So we want to keep a nice steady heart rate long-term. It’s light cardiovascular exercise that’s why you have to be careful with it. Some people who have heart trouble or heart issues can’t take sexual intercourse. You always have to be with your doctor if you’ve had some heart condition or a stroke or you’ve been sick. You definitely have to talk to your doctor about the safety of that. But in general, it increases your heart rate during the act and in long-term it decreases your heart rate and that’s good because you don’t want to have high heart rate levels always because that can make you feel palpitations and fluttering and that doesn’t feel good. In general, it also lowers your blood pressure. It keeps that blood pressure low because again it’s like cardiovascular exercise.
It is very important to use a condom to protect ourselves no matter how old you are. I have folks that are now in their older age that are starting new relationships or continuing to meet people and have mature relationships…and yes, older folks are still having intercourse but guess what diseases are still out there so you still need to use a condom to protect yourself. Define older!?! I see patients of all ages, I’m talking about people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, yes, they are still having intercourse. And yes, we do have to have the discussion about safe sexual practices, using a condom. Protection is very important, no matter what age. I’ve treated elderly folks with STD’s. It happens, so use a condom.
Now back to the good news. Ok, so we are talking about good things, healthy things about sexual intercourse. We are talking about use it or lose it. Bladder control…how many ladies that have had babies or are in their menopausal phase of life that have some leakage or some bladder weakness. It happens to the best of us. During intercourse, you can do muscle exercises, called kegel exercise. Kegel exercise can also help with bladder control.
Kegel muscle exercises are a clinching of the muscles of the pelvic floor, so think about it as a sling that holds up your pelvic area and bladder. Over time these muscles can get weakened, get stretched, they flop down where those babies stretched things out and sometimes never go back into place. They can also become weak and then your bladder can leak or become over active. It goes when you have only a small bit of urine there. Those things can be tightened up somewhat. If you imagine yourself sitting on the toilet and urinating, it’s the muscle that allows urine to flow and then stops the flow. Then it can allow the urine to flow again and then you stop the flow. Once you learn how to do that, you can do it anywhere even if you’re not urinating. One of the most fun times to do it, with willing and consenting mature adults, is to do it during intercourse because its pleasurable and it helps to tighten those muscles. So there you go, kill two birds with one stone.
So those are the goods things. Now, let’s talk about the not so good so good things about intercourse. Clearly, we’ve already talked about STD’s, so let’s run the gamut. Some sexually transmitted diseases are syphilis, chlamydia, HPV, and trichomonas.
There are lots of bad things that clearly can happen with unprotected and sometimes protected intercourse so it is very important to protect yourself. If you are sexually active or plan to become sexually active go and get checked out. A lot of these illnesses unfortunately can be transmitted and can be had without any obvious signs or symptoms. Did you know that? Particularly, for men they don’t always get classic symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea, therefore, we have to test for it. We have to screen for it. You should get tested every 6-12 months to make sure we don’t have these STD’s. These tests can be done during your physicals. Some STD testing that I offer my patients are HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, Hepatitis C, and Hepatitis B.