Dr. Michael Krychman is Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health & Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, California and Co-Chair for this year’s 6th Annual Conference on Challenges in Sexual Healthcare being held in Napa, California this June. Reflecting on the past year and how social isolation has affected healthcare workers and their patients, Dr. Krychman outlines for Symposia Spotlight the importance of sexual health and how it is intertwined with overall general health.
More than ever, maintaining an intimate sensual and sexual life is essential. We feel anxious and frustrated. We are isolated; cooped up with our family, trying to work, and maintain some sense of normalcy. And it is normal to feel like the quarantine has zapped your mojo.
There are many medical reasons to continue to nurture your sex life. Indeed, sexual health and general health are important and often intertwined. Here are some reasons why you should try to maintain your sexual life during this difficult time of social isolation.
Don’t Get Rid of Your Treadmill Just Yet, but Sexual Activity is Good Exercise!
While you are social distancing and going on those endless hikes alone, you already understand the important connection of exercise to both physical and mental health.
Sex is a good aerobic workout. You burn a few extra calories with vigorous lovemaking. It is estimated that the average person will burn approximately four or more calories per minute of sexual activity—that is four more calories than just watching television and Netflix. Even though you may not be visiting your health club, best to keep your gym membership active. According to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, for most people, sexual intercourse only lasts approximately six minutes and only burns about 20-30 calories.
Sexual activity will boost your heart rate, improve muscle strength, tone, and improve your pelvic floor, buttocks, and thigh muscles as well. One research paper from Italy discovered that the mere act of taking one’s clothes off may burn about 8 to 10 calories. Even more interesting is the discovery that this researcher reportedly found that a man attempting to remove a bra with his mouth burns as many as 80 calories.
Wow, so how about some new sexual adventures? For those who are into a vigorous, long lovemaking session, estimates are that it can burn up to 200 calories per half hour. Orgasm maximizes your caloric burn.
Sex May Help Bolster Your Immune System
According to published research, a 45-minute massage may also strengthen white blood cells that can fight disease and reduce inflammation. Having sex, snuggling, hugging, and intimate touch like caressing or holding hands causes the release of the neurochemical oxytocin. This chemical may boost immunity. Sex may even have immune system-boosting possibilities.
A study at Wilkes-Barre University in Pennsylvania showed that the close contact of lovemaking reduces the risk of colds. It showed that a significant cold-preventive effect is sex once or twice a week in a satisfying, long-term relationship. The study discovered a 30% increase in immunoglobulin A (IgA) proteins in those who had sex once or twice a week, compared to those who didn’t have sex. IgA proteins act as antibodies that can bind to disease causing germs, viruses, or bacteria when they enter the body. IgA proteins help fight disease.
Sex is a Great Stress Reliever & May Improve Your Mood
Kids screaming and complaining about home schooling? Long lines waiting in the grocery check-out lanes? Frustrated with people who are not social distancing or doing their part? Stress is endless and at an all-time high. There is almost nowhere to escape from the stress that is surrounding us on a daily basis. There is only so much exercise or yoga you can do for relaxation. Others may opt for less favorable habits like smoking, drinking, or getting lost in television or the internet.
Indeed, sex can be a great stress reliever and it has the added benefit of maintaining intimacy with your partner. Sexercise releases the feel-good hormones like oxytocin and endorphins, which can help decrease stress and anxiety. An Arizona State University study found that physical intimacy led women to feel less anxious or frazzled the next day. Sex improved mood.
Chronic stress demotivates you and zaps your libido! Testosterone levels, which have been linked to sexual desire in some women, can plummet during times of chronic anxiety and stress. Controlling and dealing with stress can help boost the desire-causing hormone of testosterone!
If you are planning on joining us at the Symposia Medicus 6th Annual Conference on Challenges in Sexual Healthcare from June 23-26 this year in Napa, California, I’d like to point out that excessive alcohol may also zap your libido and lead to mood changes. But everything can be enjoyed in moderation—even at the wineries.
Good Sex, Great Sleep!
Sleepless nights? Sleep chaos? Early morning awakenings? Sex may be the answer to your sleep woes. Research has demonstrated that the cuddle intimacy hormone called oxytocin that is released during orgasm also promotes sleep. Oxytocin and sleep quality have been linked together. Getting enough sleep has also been linked to maintaining a healthy weight and normalized blood pressure.
Some other chemical reactions occur after sex. Dopamine drops and prolactin can rise as well. Dopamine plays a role in how we experience pleasure and satisfaction. These changes have been linked with feelings of relaxation, sleepiness, as well as overall general satisfaction. Interestingly enough, in a 2006 survey of 10,000 British men, approximately half of them admit to having fallen asleep even during sex!
Sex Enhances Relationships & Closeness
If your relationship is sliding down in the dumps it may be because your sex life is waxing and waning. Sexual activity in a relationship can act as a cohesive bond to help maintain the intimacy and emotional commitment between partners. Hugs, sex, and orgasms have all been shown to increase the famous “hormone of love” known as oxytocin—the cuddle and bonding hormone.
Mutual sexual satisfaction is related to overall happiness, increased pair bonding, and improved quality of life. Good sex can be associated with a positive outlook on life and overall happiness—both in and out of your relationship.
Dr. Krychman is Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health & Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, California and an AASECT certified sexual counselor. He lives in Laguna Beach, California.