Sex is safe for the heart

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There are many ways to keep your heart healthy. Is sex one of them and is sex even considered exercise? As people get older sex might seem like it’s too strenuous for the heart, but is it?

Experts get down to the bottom of it and study how intense sex really gets. You might want to keep reading.

"To be healthy, include other forms of exercise."

Researchers from Harvard Medical School studied all you need to know about sex. The study included 32 men and women who were on average 55 years old. The researchers monitored the heart rate and blood pressure of participants while they walked on a treadmill and had sexual activity in the privacy of their own home.

The participants reported exercising about four times a week and having sexual activity on average six times a month.

The results indicated walking on a treadmill was more strenuous. The participants reported a 4.6 on a 5 scale for treadmill exercise and only a 2.7 for sex. The act is even less strenuous for women. Sex on average only burns five calories per minute, which is only four more calories than watching T.V.

Jim Crowell, fitness expert, says “I wouldn't base my athletic endeavors on training with a focus on sex, but I do think that there are plenty of fitness related positives associated with sex. Not only can you get closer to your significant other, you can get some light bodyweight and cardiovascular work in while enjoying yourself at the same time!”

As for the heart, the heart rate barely gets up to 130 beats per minute while the systolic blood pressure (the top number in blood pressure) stays under 170. This is equivalent to mild to moderate exercise while oxygen consumption is around 3.5 metabolic equivalents which is the same amount of air breathing while doing the foxtrot, raking leaves or even playing ping pong.

You’re not completely out of the clear though, sex has a completely different reaction than regular exercise. The adrenaline that pumps through your blood during intercourse can trigger a heart attack or arrhythmias – an irregular heart beat. However, it is very uncommon - even men with heart disease only have a 20 in a million chance.

You have less of a chance having a heart attack than contracting a sexually transmitted disease. However, those who have heart disease may be suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). The same things that cause heart disease like smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also linked to ED.

Don’t worry though, Viagra, a common ED medication that has proven successful in 70 percent of men, is safe. The only exception is if you’re taking nitrate medication, but there are other ED drugs that can work with nitrate medication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 6, 2011
Last Updated:
October 7, 2011