What is sex and what is not sex can vary greatly depending on the person you ask. Its frequency, duration or intensity as well. The doubts generated by sex and the different sexual practices that encompass it can be infinite. Is it good for our health? It is bad? What posture requires a greater physical form? Should we sweat to validate sex for a day’s physical activity?
Sexual activity is recognized by different studies as an activity that, when properly practiced, contributes health benefits. For example, frequent sexual intercourse is associated with lower risks of fatal coronary heart disease. This activity also elicits emotional reactions including pleasure, excitement, and relaxation, which can improve mental health and cognitive function by increasing oxytocin levels.
In this context, at the University of Almería we ask ourselves if sexual activity could be considered as a physical activity and what are its demands at a physiological and kinematic level (of movement).
What do we understand by physical activity?
To carry out the study, which has been published in the journal Archives of Sex behavior, we have started from the basic concept of physical activity, which is defined as any action or activity that involves voluntary musculoskeletal movement and entails energy expenditure.
Based on this definition, the sexual activity It can be considered a physical activity, just like going for a walk, going to pilates or riding a bicycle.
But what are the physical demands specifics of this activity? How does our body respond at the physiological level? Does it increase heart rate and energy expenditure? What kind of kinematic demands are required? What variables influence?
The research, in which the University of Murcia also collaborated, carried out a systematic review of all the studies published in relation to the physical demands of intercourse. Specifically, data on kinematic variables (such as range of motion, penetration speed, etc.) and physiological variables (such as mean and maximum heart rate, energy expenditure, blood pressure, rate of exertion received, etc.) were analyzed. ).
Across all the studies reviewed (18 in total), data from a total of 349 participants (264 men and 85 women) were observed. Specifically, the first study was published in the year 1956, when its author RG Bartlett investigated physiological responses during intercourse.
Of all the studies, thirteen were conducted in healthy participants and five looked at participants with cardiovascular disease. In addition, seven of them reported that the participants belonged to permanent partners.
Sex, moderate physical activity
The results of the work report that this activity can generate an energy expenditure of about 100 kilocalories; average heart rates between 90 and 130 beats per minute; and maximum heart rates of up to 170 beats per minute.
However, these demands may vary according to the position, the duration of the activity, the health status of the participants, the specific phase of the sexual activity and the gender itself.
Regarding the duration of sexual intercourse, the highest average reached 32 minutes in healthy participants while it fell to 18 minutes in participants with cardiovascular disease.
Regarding the kinematic demands, the movement pattern was cyclical in all positions. The greatest demands on lumbar spine flexion were found in positions such as missionary for women. This same position, along with the side position, required the greatest lumbar flexion movement in men.
Regarding the movement of the hip joint During this activity, flexion, abduction and external rotation characterize the movement of women while external rotation stands out for men.
Therefore, the results confirm that sexual activity can cause physical demands of moderate and even vigorous intensity. In this sense, the most recent version of the Compendium of Physical Activities categorized sexual activity between 1.3 and 2.8 equivalent metabolic units (which corresponds to light-intensity physical activity).
However, the most recent study, published in 2013, concluded that the intensity of intercourse could also be moderate or vigorous.
Further research is needed on this topic because there are few studies that combine kinematic and physiological analyses. Furthermore, more high-quality studies are needed to better understand the physical demands of sexual activity.
In conclusion, sexual activity can be considered as a physical activity for health under a safe and adequate practice. However, it would not be a sport as suchsince by definition this concept exclusively implies those physical activities of competition, organized and regulated under regulations.