Whether we’re talking about the heart as a pump or the heart as a symbol for love, the answer is probably the same: yes, sex is likely good for your heart.
But, there’s a caveat. If you have heart disease, sex is probably fine for your heart if your condition is treated and stable.
Read below to learn about sex as a form of exercise, when it’s risky for your heart, and the health benefits associated with it. If you’re not having sex, don’t despair – love and companionship may do more for your heart than sex. And it goes without saying, when we talk about sex, we mean consensual sex between adults.
Sex is likely good for the heart because it’s a form of exercise; however, there’s no research that definitively says it is. But you may over-estimate how much exercise you’re getting from having sex.
The average sexual encounter lasts somewhere between five to 15 minutes. The energy output is similar to climbing two flights of stairs. So, it appears sex may deliver more benefits on the pleasure side than the cardiovascular exercise side.
The British National Health Service says, “unless you’re lucky enough to have 150 minutes of orgasms a week, try cycling, brisk walking, or dancing.” In other words, you still need to get the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise in per week.
It’s very rare for people to die during sex. The risk of having a heart attack after sex is about the same for men who’ve previously had heart attacks or heart pain as it is for men who have not. There’s not much research available about women.
If you’ve previously had a heart attack or heart pain, but can do life’s normal activities that have the same effect on your heart as sex without trouble, you can probably have sex safely. Exercising 150 minutes per week regularly can decrease your chances of having a heart attack during or right after sex. Read more about sex and heart disease.
Some studies suggest that sex can reduce stress, help your immune system, and generally make you feel better overall.
But so can a loving relationship. A supportive partnership might also reduce men’s risk of heart pain (angina) and getting duodenal ulcers. In both men and women, hugs alone have been shown to reduce blood pressure.
Intimacy – being close to people in loving relationships of all sorts – might be just as good or better than sex for your heart.
Some of the healthiest and longest living people around are nuns, as the ongoing Nun Study started by the National Institute on Aging shows. Whether their long lives are because of their network of close relationships or something else, it isn’t clear.
But it seems safe to say that while sex is enjoyable and can add to feeling healthy, it’s optional.